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Police Find 40 Migrants In Van In North Macedonia

A Macedonian soldier patrols the country's border with Greece in September 2019.
A Macedonian soldier patrols the country's border with Greece in September 2019.

Police in North Macedonia have detained 40 migrants found inside a van and arrested the driver on suspicion of human trafficking.

The Interior Ministry said on February 27 that the 39-year-old driver from the town of Veles was arrested and detained at the Stip police station for further processing near where the van was discovered, some 90 kilometers south of the capital, Skopje.

Police said there were 36 Afghans and four Pakistanis inside the vehicle, who most likely entered the country illegally from Greece along what is known as the “Balkan route.”

They were transferred to a detention center in the border town of Gevgelija pending deportation back to Greece.

Although the smuggling route through North Macedonia has been shut for years, thousands still pay lofty sums of money to smugglers to help them through Balkan borders as they make their way to more prosperous countries of the European Union.

In the first three weeks of January, a total of 1,365 migrants were detained after entering North Macedonia illegally.

According to the Interior Ministry, 47 migrants were found in an abandoned truck near the borders of Bulgaria and Greece on February 21, just over a week after finding 53 migrants in another truck.

It said 37 of the migrants in that vehicle were Afghans, 12 were Pakistanis, two were Indians, and there was one Iraqi and one Egyptian. The driver was identified as a 43-year-old citizen of North Macedonia.

With reporting by AP