Amidst scandals of Mafia involvement in migrant rescue efforts in Italy, some 4,400 mostly sub-Saharan African migrants arrived on Italy’s shores between Thursday and Friday.As usual, the migrants were picked up just miles from the Libyan shoreline and shuttled by Coast Guard vessels, the Spanish navy and various NGOs all the way to Italy.
On Thursday, rescue vessels picked up 2,900 migrants while on Friday, rescuers added another 1,500 people to their number in a series of operations coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard.
Prior to Thursday’s new arrivals, Italy had already taken in more than 45,785 migrants since the first of the year, an increase of 35% compared to the same period in 2016, which saw a record-breaking number of migrants arrive.
According to Italy’s Ministry of the Interior, the region hardest hit by the waves of new migrants has been Lombardy, home to Italy’s business capital of Milan. According to reports, many African migrants disembarking in Italy do not intend to stay in the country and immediately travel north to attempt to cross the border into France, Switzerland or Austria. Tighter border controls, however, have meant that the vast majority end up staying in Italy against their will.
A report last November by the Confcommercio group on the statistical connection between crime and immigration found that in a given area, if the number of immigrants increases by 1 percent, the crime rate in the same area goes up by 0.4 percent.
The study revealed that for the first time, the crime rate in the north of Italy, which has the highest concentration of immigrants and asylum seekers, was surpassing that of the south.
The crime rate among legal immigrants is nearly exactly double that of Italian citizens, with 8.5 criminal convictions per 1000 as opposed to 4.3 convicted criminals per 1000 among citizens.
Among illegal immigrants, however, the crime rate soars to more than 50 percent (148 criminals out of every 247 persons).
A spokesman for the European border control group Frontex said Friday that the agency was deploying eleven ships, eight of them Italian, and three aircraft and three helicopters as part of Operation Triton, which aims to monitor traffic in the Central Mediterranean Sea.
In a report released earlier this spring, Frontex denounced human traffickers’ exploitation of NGOs to efficiently transport African migrants from Libya to Italy.
Many NGOs have become material accomplices to people smugglers by providing a reliable shuttle service for migrants from Africa to Europe, lowering smugglers’ costs and improving their “business model,” the report stated.
The assistance by NGOs has virtually eliminated the need for traffickers to procure seaworthy vessels capable of making the dangerous voyage across the southern Mediterranean, the report noted, since traffickers need only transport their passengers a few miles off the Libyan coast where they will be picked up by “rescue” vessels.
But NGO collusion with human traffickers is not the only story to give Italians cause for alarm.
Last week Italian media outlets revealed that one of Italy’s largest migrant welcome centers was run by the Calabria-based branch of the Italian mafia called ‘Ndrangheta.
Before dawn on Monday, more than 500 Police agents descended on the Isola di Capo Rizzuto migrant reception center, arresting 68 people, many of whom belonged to the Arena clan of the ‘Ndrangheta.
According to a statement by Catanzaro police, those arrested are being accused of “mafia association, extortion, carrying illegal weapons, fraud, embezzlement to the detriment of the state, and theft.”
The Arena clan reportedly made millions through its involvement in the running of the reception center.