(BBC) – Police in Italy have arrested 19 people accused of running a smuggling ring bringing migrants to Europe.
The smugglers allegedly transported migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan to Italy and then on to northern Europe.
Those arrested included Iraqi Kurds, Afghans and Italians, police said.
Police announced the findings following a two-year investigation that linked the suspects with smugglers in Turkey and Greece.
Investigators began looking into the alleged smuggling ring when ships carrying migrants began to arrive in the Sicilian city of Syracuse in 2018.
According to police, the migrants paid roughly €6,000 (£5,412).
Prosecutors said that the migrants were brought from Turkey and Greece to Italy in sailboats that were hired or stolen. Those who drove the boats were paid about €1,000
They then travelled onward to northern Europe or were given the choice of remaining in Italy.
According to the investigation, specific groups across the country had their own special task.
Those in Bari, southern Italy, were responsible for finding the migrants accommodation and provided documents and residence permits that allowed the migrants to move around the country.
Others in Turin and Milan helped direct them to the town of Ventimiglia, close to the border with France, where the migrants were helped cross the border and evade French police.
One of the suspects was discovered at a train station in Ventimiglia and was in the process of transporting migrants, police said.
Officers seized mobile phones, computers and €25,000 in cash.
The smugglers were “dedicated to facilitating the entrance, stay and transit towards northern Europe of migrants coming from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” police said.