Italy’s anti-mafia prosecutor responsible for investigating the criminal networks that smuggle people to Italy said police start tracking people smugglers as soon as asylum seekers disembark.
The increase in the number of sea arrivals has put a strain on Italy’s anti-mafia division, reported ABC News online.
“We deal with the trafficking of human beings, a criminal organisation aimed at smuggling migrants, but I also have ordinary mafia crime like murders, like extortion, drug trafficking, fraud, political corruption,” Dr Gery Ferrara was quoted as saying.
The investigations have pieced together a sophisticated and coordinated network of smugglers that stretches from Africa into the heart of northern Europe, as far as the United Kingdom.
Investigations have also revealed that the Sicilian mafia, also known as Cosa Nostra, have profited from the refugee crisis.
“Traditional criminal organisations such as Cosa Nostra are trying to infiltrate the sector of the public money, used for the accommodation for migrants, the logistics, the reception centres,” Ferrara was quoted as saying by ABC.
2016 was the most deadly year on record, with more than 5,000 people drowning in the Mediterranean while attempting the dangerous crossing to Europe.
According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), the majority of refugees and migrants came from Nigeria, Eritrea and Guinea.
More than half a million asylum seekers have arrived in Italy since January 2014.