SKOPJE: Police in North Macedonia said officers discovered a group of 20 Bangladeshi migrants packed in a van on a major highway near the border with Serbia.

Police said in a statement on Saturday that officers doing a routine vehicle check near the northern town of Kumanovo, found the group, which included nine minors, and arrested the van’s 44-year-old Macedonian driver.

The passengers were transferred to a shelter pending deportation to Greece, where they are believed to have entered North Macedonia from, police said.

A social worker was interviewing the minors to determine whether they were traveling alone or with parents or guardians, according to the statement.

Despite border closures and restrictions on movement during the Covid-19 pandemic, people-smuggling gangs have remained active in the Balkans.

North Macedonia is a transit route for migrants heading north from Greece to wealthier European nations.

Hundreds of thousands have traveled through the country over the last eight years.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021

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