Italian police on Thursday arrested 44 people, including politicians such as regional councillor of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party Luca Gramai, over allegations of migrant center corruption and conducting business with mobsters.
The arrests have been the second stage of a general investigation by anti-mafia police which started with the arrests of one-eyed mafia boss Massimo Carminati and the former mayor of Rome as well as 35 others.
Police have also announced that they have issued warrants for 21 more suspects in Rome, Catania and Sicily.
According to the police, the suspects together with mafia members misused the funds from migrant reception centres.
Rome’s mayor Ignazio Marino said that “politics in the past gave a bad example, but today... we have honest people who want to restitute quality of life and all the rights and dignity the capital deserves."
On the other hand, the leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party Matteo Salvini attacked the migrants, saying “we need to stop the boat departures and stop the public tenders immediately."
“Another 44 people arrested for the immigration business. Stop the departures and the boats immediately, stop the contracts right now!" Salvini said on facebook.
"It's nothing to do with being good-hearted, welcoming and supporting... they are thieves! Renzi and Alfano scatter illegal immigrants in the hotels of half of Italy, guess who gains?"
Italian police released a statement saying that detainees formed a network “by means of corrupt practices and collusion, assured itself numerous contracts and financing from the Lazio Region, the Rome municipality and associated businesses."
Italian centres for immigrants and asylum-seekers are run by social organisations. These centres can become a profitable source of income when managers fake the number of immigrants in the centre to receive more money than the centre actually needs.
Immigrants and asylum-seekers in Italy
Italy, which is leading the rescue operations in the Mediterranean, is struggling to cope with the migrant influx.
The United Nations refugee agency estimates that close to 40,000 people have arrived on Italian shores between the start of the year and May.
Over 1,850 people have died in deadly attempts to reach Europe by sea.
The current situation in the Mediterranean has left the EU alarmed and forced it to take action after more than 800 migrants died in an overcrowded vessel which capsised on April 19.
Following the tragic incident the EU decided to increase patrols in the Mediterranean Sea to prevent human trafficking.
A recent draft document was released by the European Union which recommends distributing 40,000 migrants across EU countries to share the burden on Italy and Greece, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The European Union has also approved a naval mission intended to use military force to stop boats and human traffickers smuggling people into Europe.
The naval mission was agreed upon by the EU foreign and defence ministers on May 18 and is expected to start in June. It aims to destroy the boats owned by smugglers carrying migrants to Europe.