Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Migrant Smuggling Market in Balkans Worth €50 Million

ZAGREB, 11 May, 2021 - The migrant smuggling market in the Western Balkans is worth at least €50 million a year, says a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, describing Serbia as an important destination for migrants because it borders with four EU member states.

The report notes that Serbian police have discovered several tunnels, three to seven metres deep and up to 30 metres long, under the wire fence along the Serbia-Hungary border near the Hungarian town of Szeged and village of Ásotthalom and the Serbian village of Kelebija.

The tunnels are considered relatively risky due to the possibility of arrest and the danger of them collapsing. The smugglers' fees range from €500 to 5,000.

This is much less than during the 2015 migrant however statistics show that the regional market for migrant smuggling is still large regardless of attempts to close the so-called Balkan migrant smuggling route, says the Global Initiative, an international network fighting acquisition of illegal gain and crime.

Quoting Voice of America, the Belgrade media reported about the report, which focuses on the flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans.

Using maps and analyses helps identify key entry and exit points for migrant smuggling through six Western Balkan countries, as well as locations that serve as drug smuggling hubs. Not even the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have disrupted illicit flows, says the Global Initiative.

Its report identifies Serbia as an important destination for asylum-seekers and migrants because the country borders with four EU members - Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The report quotes data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under which in 2019, 30,216 migrants entered Serbia, almost twice as many as in 2018. The report also quotes data from the Serbian Ministry of the Interior under which in 2020 more than 8,500 migrants were prevented from illegally crossing the Serbian border.



Tuesday, 27 April 2021

USKOK Indicts Nine Migrant Smugglers

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - The anti-corruption office USKOK has indicted an Afghan national and eight Croatian nationals for smuggling migrants.

The Afghan national, who is the principal defendant in the case, is charged with having organised a ring to smuggle migrants across the Croatian-Slovenian border.

The migrants were charged €600-800 for transport from the Croatian-Bosnian border to the border with Slovenia.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Turkish Smuggler Crashes Migrant Van into Croatia Police Vehicle

Police officers from the Zagreb Police Department are conducting a criminal investigation involving a 34-year-old Turkish national, who attempted to smuggle 15 migrants, after he disobeyed police orders, hit a police vehicle with his van and attempted to flee.

The suspect has been detained on charges of committing the criminal offenses of "Illegal entry, movement and stay in the Republic of Croatia, another EU Member State or signatories to the Schengen Agreement", "Coercion against an official" and "Damage to someone else's property," according to Laura Vuckovic/Zagreb Info on December 28, 2019.

On Tuesday, December 24, 2019 at 12:45am, police officers stopped an Iveco Daily van with German license plates, which was driven by a 34-year-old Turkish national, at the Sveta Helena rest stop on the A4 Zagreb – Goričan motorway. Upon inspection, the officers discovered 15 asylum seekers in the cargo area of ​​the van.

Turkish National Loaded Van in Zagreb

A criminal investigation has confirmed that the suspect, a Turkish national, placed the 15 asylum seekers in the cargo area of ​​a van on December 24, at an undetermined location in Zagreb, with the intention of acquiring undue financial gain. While driving on the A4 Zagreb - Goričan motorway, he was spotted and stopped by police officers at a gas station, and the police officer identified himself to the driver with a badge and ID.

Although the police officer was standing next to the driver's door, the suspect disobeyed his order to turn off and exit the vehicle. Then, he attempted to flee by driving away and struck the front door of the police vehicle with his van. After about 15 meters, police officers prevented him from going any further and escaping.

After the initial criminal investigation was completed, the suspect was handed over to the detention supervisor, and a criminal complaint was filed with the State Attorney's Office on suspicion of committing the above-mentioned criminal offenses.

Almost 1000 Migrant Smugglers Arrested in Croatia

As of December 27, 2019; 976 migrant smugglers have been arrested in Croatia and charged with 904 crimes. As of the same date; 1,661 people have also applied for international protection in Croatia. In more than 70 percent of those cases, the procedure for granting international protection has been suspended because the applicants have arbitrarily left the official asylum seekers' shelter, which suggests a systematic abuse of the Procedure for International Protection.

In this scenario, asylum seekers, after being discovered while attempting cross the state border illegally into Croatia, most often within Lika-Senj Police District, express a false intention to seek international protection in Croatia after they have been detained. Then they use smuggling networks to continue their journey to their destination countries (Austria, Germany, Italy).

According to Zagreb Police, these scenarios are referred to as “secondary migrations” because they are comprised of exclusively economic migrants. These migrants do not appear to show any evidence of persecution in their country of origin, nor in the countries they are attempting to enter Croatia from (Bosnia, Serbia). 

TCN reported another crash earlier this year which involved a Serbian national driving a van filled with 33 migrants, who crashed into a roadblock while attempting to flee police.

Follow our Politics page for coverage on the migrant crisis in Croatia.