Five men are accused of running a smuggling ring in North Macedonia and have been arrested. Police suspect them of having smuggled at least 100 migrants over the border from Greece towards Serbia.
The five men are all Macedonian nationals, according to local police, reported the news agency AP. They were arrested on Tuesday and accused of running a smuggling ring which allegedly has smuggled at least 100 migrants over the border from Greece.
The smuggled migrants are said to have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other countries. Each migrant is thought to have paid at least €700 to move across the border.
The smugglers are thought to have operated out of a “network of transit houses in southern border villages,” wrote AP.
Border closed, smuggling continues
Although the border between Greece and North Macedonia has been closed for months due to restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, smuggling networks have continued to operate.
According to AP, local police say they have prevented “nearly 25,00 attempts by migrants” to cross the border between the two countries without papers in this year to September alone.
Towards Western Europe
The media regularly reports about the arrests of migrant smugglers in North Macedonia as well as migrants found crammed into trucks and cars on the route towards western Europe. In July for instance, Al Jazeera reported that police had found 211 migrants, including 63 minors in a truck near the Greek border.
According to Al Jazeera, 144 of the migrants in that incident hailed from Bangladesh and 67 from Pakistan. The migrants were detained pending deportation back to Greece.
In August, InfoMigrants reported on a discovery of nearly 150 migrants in two separate trucks. North Macedonian police said on that occasion that they had “detained a total of 567 migrants trying to transit North Macedonia without papers in July alone.”