Croatian border policemen keep watch at Maljevac border crossing with Bosnia And Herzegovina as a group of migrants attempting to cross into Croatia. Photo: EPA/FEHIM DEMIR
Croatian border policemen keep watch at Maljevac border crossing with Bosnia And Herzegovina as a group of migrants attempting to cross into Croatia. Photo: EPA/FEHIM DEMIR

One person died in Croatia after a van carrying 12 migrants plunged into a river. The driver of the van that was registered in Germany fled the scene, leaving the vehicle to sink into the river. Separately, police in North Macedonia discovered 30 migrants in an abandoned truck.

A migrant woman died after a van with 11 migrants fleeing from the police plunged into a river in central Croatia, police said on Sunday.

The crash happened near the Croatian border with Slovenia after the driver refused to stop at a police checkpoint and was subsequently chased by a patrol. The driver, presumably a migrant smuggler, managed to get out of the sinking vehicle, fleeing into a nearby minefield.

"The police tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver accelerated and the van skidded into the Kupa River," the police said in a statement.

The van, which was registered in Germany, was first spotted by a police patrol in the village of Slatina Pokupska, about 50 kilometers north of the border with Bosnia, which has become a key transit country for migrants trying to make their way to Western Europe.

A search for the driver was still ongoing at the time of the statement, Croatian authorities said. Police sources added that they pulled the migrants, whose ages and nationalities were not specified, from the sinking van in the Kupa River by breaking its windows. A woman later died at a hospital.

Some 36,000 migrants, hailing mainly from the Middle East, Asia and North Africa, have entered Bosnia since last year, the European Union said earlier this month; many of them are looking to get into Croatia, an EU member state.

Earlier this month, 18 migrants were injured while trying to reach the EU across Bosnia's border with Croatia.  

Slovenia ramps up border security

Last week, Slovenia started erecting 40 kilometers of additional fences on its southern border with Croatia after marking a considerable increase in the number of migrants trying to irregularly cross between the two European Union member states; in July, Slovenia announced it would increase the presence of police and soldiers along the Croatian border to implement more controls.

Slovenia has already constructed about 180 kilometers (120 miles) of mostly barbed-wire fence with Croatia since 2015 when the Balkan route saw migrants fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and crossing the borders in their thousands each day.

The Balkan route is again undergoing an increased number of irregular border crossings: According to Slovenian police, a total of 1,740 migrant crossings were detected in July 2019, while 7,415 were recorded in the first seven months of this year in total — this is roughly a 50 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), some 5,000 migrants were registered in Slovenia in the first six months of this year alone; last year, the number had reached nearly 8,500 in 12 months.

More migrants picked up in North Macedonia

Separately, police in North Macedonia said they spotted an abandoned truck on Saturday afternoon near the town of Strumica on the Greek border. Inside the truck, they discovered 30 migrants — 24 Pakistanis, three Iraqis, two Syrians and one Sudanese national.

The migrants are believed to have crossed into North Macedonia irregularly from Greece; moreover, they are assumed to presumably have paid smugglers to take them further north through Serbia, with hopes of reaching the Central Europe.

Police said they were taken to a camp near the southern town of Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece.

North Macedonian police said they detained more than 10,000 migrants who entered the country irregularly in the first half of the year. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that the number of registered migrants in North Macedonia, was less than 1,000 — implying that for each migrant who crossed into North Macedonia using legal routes, there are about 10 migrants who cross irregularly. 

This article was written with material from AFP and AP


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