BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian police said Friday they made seven arrests on suspicion of smuggling people into Hungary as part of a days-long crackdown on irregular migration in the wake of a shooting last week in the border area that killed three migrants and wounded one.
Reports of violence and gun battles have become common near the border between Serbia and Hungary, a European Union member state. Thousands of people have been camping in the area, looking for ways to cross with the help of people smugglers.
Police said Friday they made arrests both in the capital Belgrade and in Subotica, a city near the border with Hungary. Migrants pay 2,350 euros ($2,500) each to cross, said the statement.
Since the shooting last Saturday near the border town of Horgos, police have launched daily raids in the forested area. Late on Thursday, police reported finding a total of 738 migrants, some near the border with Hungary, but others in a town near the border with Bulgaria, in the east. When found, migrants are usually transferred to reception centers throughout the country.
Serbia lies at the heart of the so-called Balkan land route of migration toward Western Europe, which leads from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria, and then on to North Macedonia, Serbia or Bosnia. Crossings along the Balkan land route usually intensify in the fall as bad weather prevents migrants from taking the perilous journey over the Mediterranean Sea.
Hungary’s staunchly anti-immigrant government has put up razor-wire fence on the borders with Serbia to stop the influx, and has pushed back into Serbia migrants who enter Hungary. People smuggling gangs, however, have multiplied in the border area, often clashing for control.
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