People smugglers are recruiting Russian citizens to head boats carrying refugees from Turkey to Italy, according to report written by two Italian NGOs.
Initially smugglers would hire Ukrainians to captain the boats, but this is decreasing in parallel with a rise in Russian captains.
The report attributes this to the fact that Ukrainian men are being blocked from leaving their country due to the war.
It goes on to say that at least 14 Russian citizens have been arrested for people smuggling in Italy.
Last November three Russians bringing 100 migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were arrested off the coast of Sicily, reports The Guardian.
The Central Mediterranean Route between North Africa and Italy is one of the main migratory routes to Europe and in 2021 was the most used route to Europe.
The route increased in popularity as Greece increased its use of pushbacks to deter refugees from entering the country.
READ: Greece calls on the EU to help control refugees entering the country