Police in southern Italy on Monday issued arrest warrants for 30 people who are suspected of exploiting immigrants for cheap labor. Authorities also confiscated up to 10 million euros in goods and real estate.
Police in the southern Italian region of Calabria launched "Operation Migrants" early Monday. It comes in the wake of an investigation that began in January, when gunmen in the town of Rosarno wounded two African migrants.
At the time, the incident triggered days of rioting by immigrants in the town. Nine people, mainly Italians, were taken into custody. They are being held on charges of mafia association and labor law violations. Others were served with warrants are under house arrest.
The head of the Italy's rapid response police unit in Reggio, Calabria, Renato Cortese, says the operation highlights the criminal activities against immigrants in Rosarno. Those arrested are suspected of having links with organized crime.
Authorities say they have uncovered a network of so-called "corporals," who recruited mostly African migrants - many of them living in Italy illegally - for work on farms and factories in the region.
The migrants would receive a maximum of 25 euros for up to 15 hours of work a day, picking oranges and other fruit. They lived in difficult conditions in old factories, without running water or electricity.
Following the January riots, authorities evacuated hundreds of African immigrants from the area on special buses organized by authorities. They were taken to migrant centers, but many have since drifted back to their old jobs.