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The trawler caught unloading migrants on a raft. Screenshot Frontex

Frontex plane spots human traffickers unloading migrants from trawler

The European border guard agency Frontex has published rare video footage taken just off the coast of Italy, in which smugglers abandon migrants on a boat.

Published: June 24, 2019, 1:02 pm

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    While the nefarious practices of smugglers are known to all, they have been working hard to remain discreet. Only the waves of migrants that arrive on rafts of fortune on European beaches, can testify to their actions.

    The European border guard agency Frontex was nevertheless able to film smugglers at work, on Thursday 20 June.

    In a video posted on Twitter on Saturday, June 22, Frontex showed how a trawler towed a smaller raft toward the high seas. Suddenly, the boat stops and unties the raft behind him. Several dozens of people then leave the trawler to embark on the small ship, some 80 in total according to Frontex.

    After unloading its stowaways, the trawler moves away from the raft and leaves the migrants on their own.

    “This is clearly the case of the use of a ‘mother ship’ used by criminals to smuggle out groups of migrants before dumping them on a smaller boat,” says the European border agency.

    The Italian National Coordination Centre initiated a complex operation and dispatched its coastal guard to deal with the situation. They caught up with the bigger vessel and arrested the suspected human traffickers on board. The migrant boat was intercepted in the Italian waters.

    Spotted by one of Frontex’s planes, the trawler and the raft was thus stopped a few hours later by the Italian coastguard. The smugglers, 6 Egyptians and a Tunisian were arrested.

    The migrants found in Italian waters, were then transferred to Lampedusa, reported Italian daily La Repubblica.

    “Note that very few of the migrants who pile up in the boat have lifejackets, they are left alone in the middle of the sea,” Frontex pointed out.

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