Last February, while Europol launched the new European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) with the aim to actively support Member States in the activity of dismantling criminal networks involved in organised migrant smuggling, from Mediterranean islands, still on the front line when it comes to boarders and migration, we get alarming news regarding new strategies adopted by human traffickers.
In Sicily, at the end of February 2016, the Coast Guard rescued three boats carrying 342 migrants which landed in Pozzallo and thanks to a joint operation between police, carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza six smugglers were arrested.
Four of them were actually minors and according to initial investigations they got on the boats in Libya in exchange for a few hundred dollars. Both the Procura di Ragusa and the Procura per i minori di Catania have opened an investigation.
Similar cases have been reported in the past, but this latest episode provides confirmation that traffickers are adopting more and more this new strategy. Recruiting minors in camps in Tripoli and turn them into motorists/smugglers in exchange for a discounted or free passage towards Europe.
Investigators have reconstructed the profile of the ‘new’ people smugglers, they are usually kids who come mainly from North or Central Africa and await in Libya for about a year before embarking on the journey; many suffer abuse and threats before being recruited and trained for the task.
The boys are give a short training course to learn the basics to surf the sea, Corriere della Sera reported the testimony of one of the four minors who arrived in late February in Pozzallo, Dris Djore, who explained what were the final instructions received by the trafficker: ” Before departure he gave us a satellite phone:’If you do not bump into any other boat within two hours, call this number, call the Italian Navy.'”