Authorities in Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia have arrested alleged members of a migrant trafficking network operating in the Balkans region.
According to media reports, police in the three Balkans countries arrested suspected members of the alleged human trafficking ring accused of smuggling migrants trying to reach Western Europe.
Sources said that arounf 21 people have reportedly been arrested as part of the months-long operation, including 17 in Montenegro, three in Bosnia-Herzegovina and one in Croatia. Two police officers were among the suspects detained in Montenegro.
Moreover, a 26-year-old Albanian national was arrested by Italian police in Trieste as part of the operation on charges of aiding and helping illegal immigrants. Police arrested the man after he failed to stop at a checkpoint near Lokev. The suspect lost control of his car and ended up in a ditch while traveling to Basovizza.
Italian police found two undocumented Turkish citizens in his car. The Turkish nationals will be returned to Slovenia as part of a bilateral agreement between Italy and the country, authorities said.
In February 2018, sources reported that although most borders on the Balkan route from Turkey to Western Europe have been closed for almost three years, the flow of migrants has not stopped. People smuggling is booming, and new trafficking hubs are being established.
Even though the number of people entering Western Europe through the Balkans has significantly decreased since several borders were closed almost three years ago, many migrants are still trying to travel from Turkey to Germany, and other EU member states.
People smuggling is a booming business in the region, as fences and tightened patrols make it close to impossible for migrants to cross the borders without the help of traffickers. Those who run out of money often end up stuck halfway along their planned route.