Plight of the boat people who are sailing into the mafia's arms

The journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean is not the only danger facing migrants fleeing Africa. Once they arrive in Italy, they are increasingly vulnerable to criminal exploitation.

The World Today Updated 14 December 2020 Published 31 July 2015 4 minute READ

Simon Massey

Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Coventry University

The death of more than a thousand migrants in April 2015 after boats capsized in the Mediterranean close to the Italian island of Lampedusa focused attention on the growing numbers crossing from Libya to Italy.

While the traumas suffered by those desperate enough to risk travelling across desert and sea to reach Europe have been widely reported, the risks posed to migrants by organized criminals after they arrive have received less attention.

Margherita Maniscalco, project manager for a Sicilian NGO which works with irregular migrants, has noticed local organized crime groups taking more interest in the opportunities presented by the migration crisis. The huge sums of money involved have made unlikely accomplices out of criminals from Italy and Africa. The result, according to Maniscalco, is further suffering for the most vulnerable.

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