BELGRADE: Serbian pol­ice prevented 200 migr­ants from crossing into the country’s northern neighbour Hungary and seized money and weapons, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

The number of illegal migrants and refugees travelling across Serbia and other Balkan states to the Europ­ean Union has been rising in recent months and many are using human trafficking networks, authorities said.

They come mainly from Syr­ia, Afghanistan and Paki­stan, as well as Central Asia and other Middle Eastern countries.

Police said that during a raid of an improvised camp along the Tisa River in Ser­bia’s north, they also found an unspecified amount of cash and weapons.

“A number of migrants were escorted by the police to the reception centre for migrants, and a number were taken to the appropriate prosecutor’s office for further action,” the ministry said, quoting Aleksandar Vulin, the Minister of the Interior.

The action of the Serbian police comes after leaders of Hungary, Serbia and Austria on Monday pledged tougher measures to contain the flow of illegal migrants into the European Union through the Western Balkans, as border control forces become increasingly strained.

In the statement, Vulin also pledged Serbian police would crack down on migrant trafficking gangs. “Our country ... will not be a parking lot for migrants, and especially not a place for scum and bandits,” the statement said.

On Monday, Serbia, an EU membership candidate, also pledged it would align its visa policies with those of the bloc, so migrants could not use it as the first country of entry.

In the first eight months of this year, 86,581 irregular entries were detected at the external borders of the European Union with the Western Balkans, border agency Frontex has said, a 190 per cent increase from last year.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022

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