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19th Jan 2019

New trend of migrant 'yachts' heading to Italy, says Europol

  • Most sail boats are leaving from Turkey's southern coast. (Photo: tayfun)

The EU's police agency Europol says a new trend is emerging of people smuggling migrants on sailing yachts from Turkey to Italy.

Europol has logged over 160 trips by this route, noting that migrants are paying up to €6,000 per head. Children are usually charged half price. Such prices may vary by nationality, by the type of boat, and by the number of people transported at the same time.

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In an email sent on Friday (13 October), the Hague-based agency told EUobserver that the trend emerged following the closure of the Western Balkan route in the spring of 2016.

The vast majority take off from the southern coast of Turkey before landing in Apulia, Calabria, or the Syracuse province of Sicily.

"We are dealing with transnational organised crime groups who are located in Turkey," it said.

The skippers are recruited mainly from Ukraine. Others come from Belarus, Georgia, and Russia. A few others come from Azerbaijan, Syria and Turkey.

The migrants taking this route are mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria.

The agency also noted the re-emergence of an alternative route across the Black Sea from Turkey to Romania and an increase in arrivals from the western Mediterranean to Spain.

Smugglers are also employing more life-threatening methods of concealment for those that reach mainland Europe. Some hide in a vehicle's engine compartment as they approach a land border.

Europol chief Rob Wainright, in a statement, said migrant smuggling "has become a big and dangerous business in Europe."

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