On 15 October 2013, the Italian Navy rescued 211 migrants (mostly of Syrian nationality) from international waters. On 3 November 2013, 29 migrants coming from Libya (26 Palestinians, two Syrians and one Eritrean) were also rescued in the same terms. The migrants were led to the reception centre of Molo Favorolo (Italy). At this stage, some of the migrants arrived on 15 October to the reception centre (six in particular) rebelled against one of the new arrivals. After inquiry by the authorities, it was explained that the target of their rage was the suspect. He had been identified as the smuggler to whom migrants had paid for the trip to Italy. It emerged as follows:
- The suspect is within the higher ranks of an organised criminal group in Libya, which deals with smuggling of migrants into Italy. In his operations, he was assisted by several men armed with machine guns. He was contacted by the migrants via phone, then giving them instructions on the modalities of payment (around 1600-2000 USD). The migrants were then kept in hiding, under the surveillance of armed men. They were fed only bread and water.
- On the day of the trip, when migrants were to pass from the smaller boat to the larger vessel, the suspect - together with six or seven other armed men - deprived the migrants of all their possessions (money, passports, mobile phones, etc).
In addition to giving statements, the migrants proceeded to the photo identification of the suspect. The authorities were able to confirm the phone numbers referred by the migrants as pertaining to the suspect.
The Prosecutor stressed the existence of aggravating circumstances given (i) the intent of obtaining a financial or other material benefit, and (ii) the transnational character of the operations of the organised criminal group. The precautionary requirements were also highlighted; notably: (a) risk of recidivism, (b) risk of escape, (c) risk of tempering with evidence.
Against this background, the Public Prosecutor of Palermo concluded for the existence of strong indicia of the suspect’s responsibility in: (i) procuring the illegal entry of migrants in Italy, in the context of a transnational and well-structured organised criminal group; (ii) participating in a criminal conspiracy to that purpose. He ordered the precautionary detention of the suspect.
For further details see infra under “Commentary”.