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Tunisian smugglers are behind “Phantom Landings” in Italy, operating out of Sfax

Tunisian smugglers are behind “Phantom Landings” in Italy, operating out of Sfax: A La Stampa September 20 report, translated here, by Fabio Albanese entitled “First five latest Tunisia route traffickers arrested.”
They are all Tunisians between 38 and 27 years of age. They are the first five traffickers – which we know about – arrested for aid and abetting illegal immigration in the framework of the investigations on the “phantom landings” on the beaches in the Agrigento area, and on those of Lampedusa and Linosa. The men of the Ragusa mobile brigade [Carabinieri] identified them and brought them to jail, given that the five individuals had been transferred to the Pozzallo hotspot [centre for the identification and registration of migrants]. The other 116 people who on 15 September were – along with the traffickers – aboard a ship approached by the motor patrol boat Verdecchia of the Finance Police 70 miles southwest of Porto Empedocle, are also in that facility. A vessel of the Italian Navy deployed under the Frontex banner had noticed the ship and raised the alarm. It is one of the first Tunisian boats involved in the “phantom landings” to be located and blocked while still at sea and the last, in chronological order, to have arrived in Sicily.
The five individuals have been identified thanks to a video found in the mobile phone of a migrant woman: The five men are seen in the wheelhouse laughing and joking. It was only after the discovery of this video that some of the migrants decided to talk, to describe the roles of the traffickers, and to share details of the journey at sea which had started a few days earlier from the port of Sfax, east of Tunis, and had been interrupted repeatedly owing to malfunctions of the boat, which was changed twice. Each of them had supposedly paid 2,000 euros for the crossing, a much greater sum than the one paid by desperate people departing from Libya. This trip alone would have therefore produced roughly 200,000 euros in revenue.
The surprise for investigators, however, arrived later during the identification procedures of the 121 individuals who had arrived, and supports some of the investigative hypotheses formulated by the Agrigento Prosecution Office. The latter believes that the “phantom landings” phenomenon has nothing to do with the closure of the Libyan route, and Agrigento Prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio, during a conversation with La Stampa, dubbed it “dangerous immigration”: some 30 per cent of the migrants who disembarked that boat and were brought from Porto Empedocle to Pozzallo had previously been in Italy, and had previously been expelled. Some of them were even convicted felons known to the Italian judiciary who had been sent back to Tunisia for that precise reason. Just as it will happen now not only to the repeat offenders but also to those who, as “economic migrants,” cannot receive refugee status and cannot be welcomed in Italy. They have all been already transferred to the (Cpr, ex Cie) Pian del Lago Centre for identification and expulsion in Caltanissetta, awaiting the Interior Ministy’s plane that will bring them back to their country.
“The situation is concerning,” the investigators, who do not try to hide the fact that these landings, the majority of which took place in the dead of the night or during the early morning, and often avoid patrols, may bring ill-intentioned individuals to Italy. According to estimates, some 5,000 migrants who departed from Tunisia supposedly arrived on the beaches of the Agrigento area and those of Lampedusa and Linosa from June until the present day. Those who landed in the Pelagie islands were stopped and repatriated, while those who landed in the most isolated and inaccessible beaches of the Agrigento region, from the Torre Salsa nature reserve to the spectacular beach of Scala dei Turchi, to Siculiana, Realmonte, Ribera, or Licata largely escaped. Some 11 landings have been reported in the last month alone: “But this summer there have been at least some 70 landings that we have heard about,” Agrigentine President of Mareamico [Environmental NGO] Claudio Lombardo said. Lombardo, together with the volunteers of the organisation, has been keeping the beaches under control and monitoring the [phantom landings] phenomenon, also with the goal of prompting the authorities to remove the abandoned boats that spoil the environment and pollute: “In fact, there could be a lot more landings than that, because we count those of the people who have abandoned boats on the beaches. But there are also boats and dinghies that drop migrants off along the shoreline and head back,” Lombardo said. “We realise that because we find on the sand the drenched clothes that migrants leave behind when they get changed to escape, but not the boats that have brought them here.”

Written by nickbiddlenoe

October 4, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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