Police in Macedonia detain 128 migrants

Macedonian police detain 128 illegal migrants hiding in five houses in a village

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Macedonian police have detained 128 illegal migrants from Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries sheltering in five houses in a village near the border with Serbia, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

Villagers had rented their houses to the migrants for 1,500 euros ($1,685) a month, ministry spokesman Vlado Kotevski said. He said four Macedonian nationals would be charged with people smuggling.

The early morning raid on the houses in Vaksince came a week after British Channel 4 TV broadcast a programme in which it reported the migrants were being held there against their will.

Kotevski said the migrants had told investigators they came to Vaksince via Greece of their own free will.

"None of them complained of being threatened or blackmailed," Kotevski told reporters.

Migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution in the Middle East and Africa are increasingly using the Balkans to reach Western Europe, as this route is deemed longer but safer than sailing across the Mediterranean, where thousands of migrants have died in rickety boats.

Separately to the Vaksince case, police in neighbouring Serbia said on Thursday they had arrested two police officers and another six people suspected of trafficking people, for a fee, from Belgrade to Subotica, near the border with EU member Hungary.