‘Make human trafficking a crime against humanity’ say Europe’s police chiefs at Rome meet

European police and naval chiefs on Thursday called for migrant trafficking of the kind currently taking place in Libya to be declared a crime against humanity.

'Make human trafficking a crime against humanity' say Europe's police chiefs at Rome meet
Men disembark from an Italian coastguard vessel following a rescue operation at sea. File photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

At talks in Rome, senior figures in the fight against the deadly trade said such a move would both draw attention to the gravity of the crimes they are trying to stop and make it easier to do so.

“Migrant trafficking as it takes place in Libya should be considered an international crime, a crime against humanity,” said Admiral Enrico Credendino, the head of a European naval force charged with combating trafficking in the Mediterranean.

Europol's Robert Crepinko said it was time to redefine the nature of traffickers' actions to better reflect their tragic impact.

READ ALSO: 'They got the wrong man': Doubts remain over trafficking suspect's identity

“More than 5,000 (migrants) died in the Mediterranean last year and we don't know about the Sahara but we can assume that it is at least that figure or even more,” said Crepinko, who heads the trans-European police agency's migrant smuggling unit.

Many of the tens of thousands of migrants reaching Italy via Libya every month come from sub-Saharan Africa and begin their treks north by paying traffickers to cross the vast desert.

“There are still (African) countries that don't consider it (smuggling) as a crime,” Crepinko said. “If it is considered a crime against humanity, then of course there are certain obligations for the authorities to act.”

The proposed move would also ensure trafficking-related crimes could be prosecuted long after they are committed, he said.

The idea is in its early stages and it is not clear exactly how it would be implemented as there is no global treaty defining crimes against humanity.

Previous prosecutions have been carried about on the basis of bespoke definitions created for hearings such as the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II and the International Tribunals on former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

A UN working group is currently attempting to plug the gap in international aw with regard to crimes against humanity.

Credendino said the traffickers could not be categorized as simply providing an illegal transport service. “There are recurring reports of migrants being detained in inhumane conditions under duress, deprived of freedom, attacked and abused,” he said.

“Some are sexually abused and some women are being forced into prostitution. The line of demarcation between migrant smuggling and human trafficking is getting thinner and thinner.”

Separately, Credendino unveiled plans to step up his naval force's training programme for the Libyan coastguard after a first batch of 130 officers underwent sessions in Malta and Libya.

Another 1,000 of the coastguard's staff will spend time with peers in Spain and Italy in the next year as efforts continue to make the force more effective at patrolling Libya's coastal waters.

READ ALSO: Suspected people smugglers 'sold organs' of migrant dead


Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage