WATCH: Ukraine Busts People-Smuggling Network Ferrying Migrants to EU

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies revealed on Wednesday the discovery of a people-smuggling network ferrying illegal migrants from Turkey to European Union countries such as Italy and Greece.

“It was established that, on the territory of Kherson and Mykolayiv oblasts [adminitave regions], an organized group is engaged in the transfer of illegal migrants from Turkey to the EU countries, in particular, Greece and Italy,” explained an October 23rd official statement issued by Ukraine’s national police, reported in English by the Kyiv Post.

The national police shared a video of one of the smuggler yachts being boarded on their website and confirmed that they had seized “ships, certificates for various yachts … mobile phones, laptops [and] drugs” as part of a wider a multi-agency operation.

“These vessels were fully equipped to carry as many migrants as possible and, if necessary, various illicit items, including drugs,” they added, indicating that the Ukrainians crewing the yachts were recuited by people-smugglers targeting “citizens who have significant financial difficulties.”

The authorities further indicated that the migrants are typically intercepted once they land in the E.U. – although this is not really an issue for them, as they simply claim asylum upon discovery – and authorities detain the press-ganged Ukrainian sailors.

“There are many Ukrainians in Greek prisons. Our citizens are being deceived into working on cruise liners and yachts, and then are forced, under penalty of death, to smuggle illegal migrants across the sea to Europe. That is why hundreds of Ukrainian sailors have been detained,” lamented Liudmyla Denisova, the human rights commissioner for the Ukrainian parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, in 2018.

The October 23rd police statement confirms that there are now “about 300” Ukrainians being “punished” in Italy and Greece for offences related to people-smuggling.

The Ukrainian authorities also reported having “detained a militant” from Somalia who they found attempting to cross from Russian-occupied Crimea into the part of Ukraine still controlled by Kyiv. While much of the world has not recognized Russia’s invasion and attempted annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian forces have failed to expel the occupying for from the region and impose Ukrainian law.

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