Police in North Macedonia have found 53 migrants crammed inside a truck. The driver of the vehicle has been arrested on suspicion of belonging to a human trafficking gang.
The police said in a statement that the truck had bee stopped during a routine check late on Wednesday near the southeastern town of Valandovo, located close to North Macedonia's border with Greece and Bulgaria. The police identified the driver as a 43-year-old man from North Macedonia, who will now be facing human trafficking charges.
Police said that 37 of the migrants found inside the vehicle came from Afghanistan, 12 were Pakistanis, two were Indians, one was Iraqi, and one Egyptian.
Balkan route remains popular
The migrants were transferred to detention centers in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje and the border town of Gevgelija. They are believed to have entered North Macedonia illegally from Greece and are expected to be deported back there.
The migrant route from Greece to northern Europe, known as the Balkan route, has effectively been closed since 2015. Nevertheless, migrants continue to attempt to cross into the EU using that path, often taking immense risks. Dozens of migrants have been killed by suffocation inside vehicle since the onset of the so-called refugee crisis five years ago.
North Macedonia says that in the first three weeks of January, a total of 1,365 migrants had entered the country illegally.
With AP, dpa•••• ➤ Also read: UK corpse discovery triggers outrage among aid organizations, former trafficking victims