Italy: Afghan minors found hiding in trucks
Italian authorities have reported more cases of Afghan minors entering the country hidden inside cargo trucks coming from the Balkans. Police said they apprehended youths in two separate cases in Ravenna and in Caserta this week. Italian police continue to report cases of underage Afghans discovered squeezed into trucks coming from the Balkans.
After youths were discovered in northern Italian province of Monza and Brianza at the end of January, two similar incidents were reported by police in the area of Ravenna, in the north, and in the southern city of Caserta.
Squeezed inside the truck for three days
Five minors from Afghanistan, along with a 21-year-old, were discovered by traffic police during the night between February 3 and 4 at a gas station on the A/1 highway near the southern city of Caserta. Four minors were found inside the semi-trailer of a truck with a Macedonian license plate, shortly after midnight. The lorry was parked in the service area ‘San Nicola Sud’.
The 21-year-old was found close to the truck. The five, with the help of an interpreter, told Neapolitan police officers that they boarded the truck, which was transporting wheels, in Serbia. They said that their trip lasted three days and that they travelled squeezed between the wheels with only a bottle of water and some cookies as sustenance.
The Polstrada officers gave them food and then identified them. The minors were then taken to a shelter called “Comete” in Casoria, Naples. The 21-year-old, who intends to apply for asylum, was taken to a hosting center in the province of Caserta.
Driver arrested in Ravenna
In the case reported in Ravenna, police found four minors of Afghan origin inside a lorry transporting sugar.
Security officials on February 4 arrested the truck’s 55-year-old driver, a man of Croatian origin residing in Serbia, investigative sources said. The man was arrested at the port of Ravenna and charged with aiding and abetting and trafficking undocumented migrants. Maritime border police officers intervened, together with investigators and customs officials, after someone heard screams inside the back of a cargo truck.
The officers broke the shipment seal and opened the truck, discovering the youths. Forensic police later examined it and found that a Serbian customs official had approved the shipment with a customs seal. The seal had not been issued by a shipping agent with the authorization of Serbian customs, investigative sources explained.
The seal’s function was to guarantee that the shipment would not be altered, stolen or destroyed during transportation. According to investigators, the undocumented migrants could not have climbed into the truck after the seal had been applied, without damaging it. The driver was arrested at the order of local prosecutor Angela Scorza.
He was taken to jail in Ravenna and charged with the aggravating factor that he put the Afghans in danger by using a vehicle unsuitable for passengers. Investigators found that the sugar was being transported to a factory in Ravenna. The lorry’s trip started in Serbia.
It then stopped at the border between Croatia and Slovenia.
After crossing the border with Italy, the lorry stopped again near Venice before reaching Ravenna, the sources said.