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Italy arrested 40 people over migrant visa fraud after Meloni’s complaints

Italy arrested 40 people over migrant visa fraud after Meloni’s complaints

Italy arrested 40 people over migrant visa fraud after Meloni’s complaints

Italy arrested 40 people over migrant visa fraud after Meloni’s complaints

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  • The suspects filed fraudulent visa applications on behalf of migrants, who require employer sponsorship.
  • The suspects filed around 2,500 applications from 2020 onwards, using non-existent or falsified data.
  • Migrants paid up to 7,000 euros ($7,575.40) each to expedite the process.
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Police and prosecutors in Italy announced on Wednesday that they have held more than 40 people for migrant visa fraud, following complaints from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni weeks ago about mafia groups exploiting the system for profit.

Authorities apprehended forty-four people, with thirteen placed in jail, twenty-four under house arrest, and seven in custody. They charged them with various crimes, including criminal association aimed at abetting illegal immigration, money laundering, and false invoicing. Additionally, they banned a further ten suspects from business activities for twelve months.

Prosecutors from the southern city of Salerno, near Naples, stated that the suspects filed fraudulent visa applications on behalf of migrants, who require the sponsorship of employers to initiate the process.

Prosecutors stated that the suspects filed “around 2,500” applications from 2020 onwards, using non-existent or falsified data. They added that migrants paid as much as 7,000 euros ($7,575.40) each to expedite the process through various bureaucratic hoops.

Prosecutors stated that they seized assets worth around 6 million euros as profits from the alleged crimes. They indicated that some of the suspects accused of money laundering were linked to the Camorra, the Mafia in and around Naples.

Speaking to reporters, Salerno Chief Prosecutor Giuseppe Borrelli stated that investigations were accelerated after Meloni reported her concerns about possible visa fraud to the national anti-mafia prosecutor in June.

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As part of its tough stance on immigration, Meloni’s rightist government has enacted various measures to curb migrant arrivals, while also expanding legal immigration channels in response to growing labor shortages.

Last year, Italy increased quotas for work visas for non-EU citizens to a total of 452,000 for the period 2023-2025, marking a nearly 150 percent increase from the previous three years. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Italy issued just 30,850 visas.

According to the Interior Ministry, the system received nearly 244,000 requests in the first 10 days of opening the procedure, despite having only 151,000 places available for 2024 alone, indicating massive oversubscription.

Last month, Meloni raised alarm bells, stating that a disproportionate number of applications had come from Campania — the economically depressed region comprising Naples and its Camorra mafia. Migrant rights advocates assert that excessive red tape facilitates visa abuse and call for a reform of the system, noting that it typically benefits undocumented migrants already in Italy, who use the quotas to legalize their situation.

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