This column has many times delved into the involvement of organised crime in the refugee and migration movements. As was the case during the latest migrant waves that swept Greece and Italy, criminal organisations and groups play a key role in trafficking of persons from areas devastated by the war, famine, diseases and poverty.
As in many cases, NGOs revealed how refugees and migrants are part of the lucrative operations run by various ‘mafias’ that exploit human beings as commodities.
The simple trafficking of people, the illegal penetration of EU borders by migrants desperate to reach the rich Northern Europe, is associated with various crimes.
Women and children are trafficked for sexual exploitation – forced into prostitution. Men, women and children are exploited at a level of pure slavery. Children are used for their organs, illegally harvested to be sold on the black market. The human body and human opportunities are exploited to the maximum and in a quasi ‘scientific’ way.
Behind all this is organised crime.
In Greece and in Italy, thousands of migrants and refugees are made to live in camps under inhuman conditions. They are at risk of becoming victims – easy prey for criminals who can strike at any moment.
The tragedy of the situation has been widely reported during the past two months in Italy. Three cases, three scandals, revealed how deep the business of Italian organised crime really is.
Firstly, an Italian prosecutor accused several NGOs of having contacts with smugglers and helping them bring migrants to Italy. The NGOs’ role was cleared and it was revealed that the smugglers find it easier to abandon their merchandise in the middle of the Mediterranean to avoid any risk of collusion with the Italian authorities. Then they inform the NGOs who sweep to rescue the migrants. Smuggling has become the most lucrative business for ‘mafias’ and jihadists in Africa since the Libyan regime of colonel Qaddafi collapsed.
Secondly, a scandal exploded in South Italy about month ago. The protagonists were women from Romania who were exploited in camps and then systematically raped by their guardians, all of them members of local mafias. Romania may be a member of the EU, but since it remains a very poor country, its citizens are treated as migrants form non-EU countries.
Thirdly, Italian police last week raided a Mafia-controlled migrant centre in the southern region of Calabria. It was revealed that Italy’s largest migrant centre, located in Isola di Capo Rizzuto, had been under the control of Calabrian mafia for 10 years. The clan of Mafiosi controlled logistics, providing the centre with services and siphoning off state funds.
More than 500 agents were involved in the arrests of suspects accused of mafia association, extortion, carrying illegal weapons, fraud, embezzlement to the detriment of the state and theft.
The claims came to light on May 15 when officers arrested 68 people, including a local priest.
It is alleged that the Arena clan, part of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, may have taken more than a third of the €100m destined for the centre over the past 10 years, reported the BBC.
The arrests come two years after L’Espresso magazine published an investigative report, alleging funds were being stolen and managers were making money by starving the migrants who lived there.
The Italian state openly admits that organised crime plays a role in everything concerning migration in Italy.
As reported by The Local, Rosy Bindi, the head of the country’s anti-mafia commission, said the Calabria sting was “an important result in the fight against the ‘Ndrangheta and the infiltration of mafia in the management of migrants”. The problem is too serious to be resolved in a short period. An important blow against organised crime needs to be a more actively expressed solidarity by other EU member states.