ROME, 22 February 2004 — A woman accused of playing a major role in trafficking illegal immigrants from Libya to Europe was arrested in Tripoli and was being extradited here yesterday, authorities said. Police said the 24-year-old Eritrean woman — called Ganat Tewelde Barhe but known as “Madame Gennet” — arranged for boatloads of immigrants to travel from Libya to Italy. She was arrested in Tripoli and put on a flight for Rome yesterday, Italian police said.
“Madame Gennet is one of the main organizers of illegal-immigrant trafficking in Libya, largely of Eritreans and Somalis,” police said in a statement. “She planned their voyages from Libya with cash payments ranging from $500 to $800 per immigrant.”
Thousands of illegal immigrants arrive in Italy every year, often hoping to travel on to other European Union countries. Many tragedies have occurred when rickety immigrant boats sank before reaching the long Italian coastline. Italy and Libya have been cooperating on fighting the lucrative trade in illegal immigration from the North African country.
“Cooperation between Italy and Libya continues to bear good fruit, especially in fighting criminal organizations that pitilessly exploit illegal immigration and the traffic of human beings from the sub-Saharan area and the Horn of Africa toward Italy and Europe,” Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said.