Both Tunisian and Italian human traffickers were arrested in this two-year sting operation. Sicily and Southern Italy is a region heavily affected by the mostly Muslim migrant invasion crisis; in 2015 and 2016 a total of 400,000 migrants landed in Sicily, an island with a population of just 5 million.
NewsDeeply The Sicilian mafia, the Cosa Nostra, seized the opportunity to enrich themselves and further entrench their influence. With the establishment of refugee camps throughout the island and mainland, the Cosa Nostra bribed officials and secured contracts to manage the accommodation of refugees.
This allows them to profit from government subsidies which amount to around $37.50 per immigrant per day, a rapidly growing multi-million dollar business. “The interest is to open as many [camps] as possible and keep the migrants there. The longer they keep them, the more money they bring in,” one Sicilian senator told the Washington Post.
The Cosa Nostra has not only found ways to benefit monetarily from the migrants, it has also integrated migrants into mafia-related criminal enterprises in Sicily.
Throughout Sicily, networks of Nigerians, often with gang affiliations in their country of origin, act as low-level criminals, with permission from the Cosa Nostra. The criminal operations of Nigerian migrants are subordinate to the mafia, which offers them protection and resources for drug dealing and prostitution. In return, the groups must pay a pizzo, the mafia tax. In order to reinforce their subordinate status of these networks, the Cosa Nostra bans them from carrying firearms and limits them to knives and machetes.
Since mid-2015, Italian authorities have launched a series of operations, named Glauco, that have begun to unveil the structure of violent smuggling networks. In three stages, police and prosecutors based out of Sicily, under the supervision of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DNA), have arrested more than 70 smugglers, including those responsible for coordinating and financing operations.