European states to create anti-trafficking taskforce
Switzerland, Germany and Italy are preparing to launch a joint taskforce to detect and dismantle networks smuggling refugees and migrants into Europe, Swiss authorities said on Friday.
The taskforce, which has been in the planning stage for months, will begin working next month, federal police spokeswoman Cathy Maret told AFP.
The announcement came as Europe was reeling from the discovery on Thursday of 71 decomposing bodies in an abandoned truck in Austria -- in a grim reminder of the ruthlessness of human traffickers.
Meanwhile, Libyan rescue workers recovered 76 bodies from yet another capsized boat crammed with people trying to flee across the Mediterranean amid fears the toll could rise as high as 200.
In Switzerland, the fight against human trafficking is handled at a regional level, and it is the canton of Ticino, which borders Italy, which is in charge of the tri-national taskforce, Maret said, although Swiss federal authorities were also supporting the project.
The taskforce will be based in the small Swiss town of Chiasso on the Italian border, and will be manned by Swiss border guards and German and Italian police.
"It will be tasked with detecting, pursuing and dismantling the smuggling networks," she said.
Switzerland is both a destination point for migrants as well as an important transit point, with two main routes passing through the country.
One stretches from Ticino, where Chiasso is located, and leads through Basel in the far north then on to Germany, and the other goes Italy to towards France.
The number of people arriving in Chiasso by train from Italy -- and often immediately sent back there -- has been steadily climbing in recent months.
Switzerland officially registered 7,384 asylum requests in the second quarter of this year, marking a 64-percent increase over the first three months of this year and a 47-percent rise from the same period a year ago.
Eritreans make up the largest group of asylum seekers in Switzerland, with 3,238 requests in the second quarter, followed by Somalis, Sri Lankans and Syrians.
© 2015 AFP