Police in North Macedonia say they have discovered 148 migrants crammed into trucks in two separate operations in central and northern parts of the country, and have arrested two men on suspicion of trafficking migrants.
Police said their patrol stopped a truck and accompanying passenger car near the town of Demir Kapija, about 110 kilometres south of the capital Skopje, on Wednesday. They, found 103 migrants, including 29 children, packed into the truck. The majority — 81 people — were from Pakistan, while 10 were from Afghanistan, eight from India, two from Egypt and one each from Iran and Syria. Two men from North Macedonia were arrested as suspected smugglers.
The migrants were transferred to a migrant shelter in the southern border town of Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece, where they are believed to have crossed into North Macedonia from.
Another 45 migrants from Syria, Bangladesh, Somalia, Pakistan and the Palestinian territory were found in an abandoned truck near the northern village of Vaksince, near the border with Serbia, late Wednesday.
Police said the truck driver fled the scene.
The Greek border with North Macedonia was closed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But trafficking networks remain active, ferrying migrants who make their way from Turkey into Greece and then attempt to head north, through Serbia to more prosperous countries in the European Union.
Police said that in July alone they had detained a total of 567 migrants attempting to illegally transit North Macedonia and had arrested nine people, including three Serbian nationals, suspected of migrant trafficking.