Tuesday 6 December 2016

Italy probes role of Isil in organising migrant flow

Isla Binnie

Published 04/08/2016 | 02:30

Germany's Chancellor Merkel Photo: RUDI ZIEGLER/AFP/Getty Images
Germany's Chancellor Merkel Photo: RUDI ZIEGLER/AFP/Getty Images

Italy is investigating whether Isil is involved in organising the passage of tens of thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean, its justice minister said yesterday.

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The Turkey to Greece migration route has been largely shut down since a repatriation deal was struck between the European Union and Ankara in March, but hundreds of people are arriving in Italy every day, mostly from Libya.

Criminal gangs have taken advantage of chaos in Libya to charge mainly sub-Saharan Africans, who are looking for a better life in Europe, hundreds of dollars to make the voyage.

"From the information available, there is an investigation underway focused on whether representatives of Isil (Islamic State) have crucial roles in controlling and managing migrant flows to Italy," Justice Minister Andrea Orlando told a parliamentary committee.

Risks

He told the hearing on immigration, Europe's border-free Schengen accord and European police agency Europol that details of the investigation were secret.

"The risks we have to take on are high," he said, adding there was also a suspicion the militants were trying to influence where in Italy migrants were eventually placed.

The militant group has made money by selling oil from fields it seized in the Middle East and North Africa and from plundering weapons and ammunition.

Militant groups have smuggled members into Europe among the migrants, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said.

The migrants are taking often unseaworthy boats from Libya to Italy. A total of 4,027 migrants or refugees have died worldwide so far this year, three-quarters of them in the Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

This is a 35pc increase on the global toll during the first seven months of 2015.

More than 257,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea this year, it said.

Separately, Germany has announced that 42,300 unaccompanied minors entered the country from abroad last year. This was an increase of 30,700 - or 263pc - compared with the previous year.

About 91pc, or 38,700, of these children and teenagers were male, while only about 3,600 girls entered Germany without their parents.

Germany saw an unprecedented influx of migrants in 2015. More than 1 million people registered for asylum - the majority of them from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unaccompanied refugee children are normally taken into care by the country's youth welfare offices.

Irish Independent

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