AP NEWS

North Macedonia police find 78 migrants crammed in a van

March 1, 2020 GMT

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Police in North Macedonia said a mobile border patrol on Sunday found 78 migrants, including six minors, crammed in a van during a routine checkup in the central part of the country and arrested two men, suspected for illegal migrant trafficking.

Police said 41 Pakistanis, 26 Afghans, five Syrians, four Egyptians and two Turkish nationals were found in a van after a mobile border patrol stopped the vehicle near the town of Shtip, some 90 kilometers south of the capital Skopje.

Police said the driver, 46, and another man, 36, both Macedonian nationals, have been arrested on suspicion of trafficking.

The migrants are believed to have entered North Macedonia illegally from Greece. They are expected to be transferred to a detention center in the border town of Gevgelija pending deportation back to Greece.

North Macedonia was part of what became known as the “Balkan route” for migrants and refugees seeking to make their way to more prosperous countries of the European Union.

Although that route has been shut for years, thousands still pay large sums to smugglers to help them through Balkan borders.

North Macedonia police and border authorities have increased patrolling on the border with Greece, after Turkey opened its border to outgoing migrants.