Italian police said Thursday that they had arrested seven people while breaking up a ring of smugglers who were ferrying migrants from Greece and Albania to Italy.
A criminal gang, with a known history of smuggling black-market cigarettes in the southern port city of Brindisi, was using its network to ferry over the migrants, mainly from Syria but also Iraq and Somalia.
Twenty-six people were involved in the trafficking, charging about 4,500 euros ($5,300) per person, the police said.
The seven main members, six Italians and a Greek with Iraqi origins, were arrested and one boat was seized.
Italy has been a primary destination for the thousands of migrants who have been risking perilous sea voyages to reach western
Europe in recent years, from Greece as well as Libya and other North African countries.
Both Italian and EU officials have been trying to curb the influx which has seen nearly 1.5 million people arrive in Europe since 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration.