Smugglers based in Turkey are offering to take migrants to Italy instead of Greece where they are likely to be deported under a deal between the Ankara government and European Union, according to a newspaper report.
Smugglers use Facebook to advertise boat trips to Italy after EU deal
"The trip is on Saturday, from Mersin to Italy, on a merchant ship 110 metres long, equipped with food, water, life jackets and medicine," the Guardian quoted the post as saying.
The Guardian said on Thursday that smugglers had used Facebook to advertise a boat trip to Italy from the Turkish port of Mersin - at a cost of $4,000 per person, four times the price of a journey from Turkey to Greece.
The advert, which was no longer visible on Facebook on Friday, appeared after Turkey agreed with the EU this month to return migrants and refugees who cross illegally to Greece in exchange for financial aid, faster visa-free travel for Turks and slightly accelerated EU membership talks.
The returns are supposed to begin on April 4 under the plan, which aims to close the main route by which a million migrants and refugees poured across the Aegean Sea to Greece in the last year before heading north mainly to Germany and Sweden.
A Facebook official told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the company was investigating the origins of advertisement.
In the past two years scores of would-be migrants seeking to escape conflict in the Middle East have used Facebook as their compass for finding the people smugglers they hope will lead them to a better life in Europe.
However, many of these migrants end up being tricked by people posing as smugglers, the Guardian said.
The United Nations called on Friday for legal safeguards to be in place before refugees are returned to Turkey under the agreement with the EU, while warning that conditions in Greece are deteriorating.
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