More than 30 dead

Kurdistan Region detains suspected smugglers in deadly Italy sinking

ERBIL – The Kurdistan Region announced on Tuesday the arrest of four suspected human traffickers linked to the sinking of a sailboat off Italy’s coast, leaving more than 30 people dead.

More than 60 people were reported missing after the boat sank near southern Italy’s Calabria region in mid-June, with 11 people rescued.

According to non-governmental organisations and accounts from victims’ families, the boat was carrying mostly Kurdish migrants from Iraq and Iran, along with Afghan families.

“Following investigations and gathering information on the suspects involved in smuggling residents of the region to Italy, four people considered to be leaders in human trafficking were arrested,” the Asayish announced.

They gave only the initials of the four “suspected of being involved in the illegal travel of residents of the Kurdistan region to the Italian coast, which led to the sinking of their yacht”.

The four were arrested in the province of Sulaymaniyah, a security official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

So far 36 bodies have been recovered by the authorities in Italy, according to the latest report on Tuesday, with ongoing efforts to locate those still missing from the boat that departed Turkey.

The Asayish directorate reaffirmed its commitment to combatting human trafficking. “Asayish assures the residents of the Kurdistan region that their efforts to investigate and apprehend those involved in human trafficking, both within and outside the region, will continue. Anyone found to be participating in human trafficking will be arrested and prosecuted according to the law,” the statement concluded.

In a related effort, authorities are identifying the bodies of those lost in a recent maritime tragedy off Italy’s coast using DNA testing. Bakhtiar Ismail, a relative of two families from Erbil who lost several members, detailed the procedure to 964media. “Since the bodies found earlier were unidentifiable, they are using DNA testing to identify and repatriate their bodies,” he said.

In mid-May, Kurdistan authorities announced the arrest of a migrant smuggler nicknamed “Scorpion”, wanted in several European countries.

Barzan Majeed, known as “Scorpion,” has been linked to a large-scale smuggling network that transports people across the English Channel to the UK. This network often uses perilous routes, resulting in fatalities. Majeed’s arrest came just days after a BBC report that featured an interview with him was published.

The International Organization for Migration says about 3,155 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year and more than 1,000 people have died or gone missing so far this year.

The central Mediterranean migration route, on which Italy lies, is the deadliest in the world and represents 80 percent of the deaths on that sea.

Thousands of migrants depart from Libya and Tunisia by boat towards Europe, with Italy often the first landing point.

AFP contributed to this report