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Smugglers offer luxury passage for migrants, if they can pay

Author: Gaia Pianigiani and Lorenzo Tondo (The New York Times), Published on: 23 May 2017

Since the beginning of the year, the Sicilian authorities have registered 125 migrants who have arrived on yachts and sailboats, mostly piloted by Ukrainian skippers, a lucrative and growing trend. “It is likely that the organization is made up of Turks who use professional Ukrainian skippers, traditionally skilled, for the crossing,” said Francesco Paolo Giordano, the chief prosecutor in Syracuse, who is in charge of the investigations... Since the European Union cut a deal with Ankara in 2016, the numbers of refugees and migrants leaving Turkey in flimsy inflatable boats for the short passage to Greece have dropped sharply. But the crackdown by the Turkish authorities has apparently not discouraged a widening network of hard-pressed but accomplished Ukrainian yachtsmen who ply the narrow Bosporus and are willing to smuggle Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians and others with the means and money. Captured boats have even included trophies and sailing medals.

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