In a joint operation by police authorities of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, key organizers of a channel for the illegal transfer of migrants across the Drina River to BiH, operating for nearly two years, were arrested on December 17th. Eight suspected traffickers have been detained. A message from the Serbian Interior Ministry says that the smugglers had transferred 203 migrants across the border between the two countries in the period November 17 – 23 only. According to the report, the operation was carried out on the Serbian side by the Organized Crime Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department for Illegal Migration of the Border Police, the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and the Security Intelligence Agency, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina the State Investigation and Protection Agency as well as the Prosecutor’s Office have participated.
Serbian police has arrested six in Belgrade, Loznica and Ljubovija, while police in Bosnia and Herzegovina arrested two others. They are accused of organizing a migrant channel through Serbia to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and illegal transfer of persons to BiH, for which they have taken more than 100 euros per migrant.
According to a statement by the Commissariat for Refugees of the Republic of Serbia, a total of 4447 migrants are currently housed in Serbia’s 17 asylum centers, including 807 children, most of them from Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Bangladesh.
The Commissariat statement underlines that “Serbia acted responsibly, humanely and organized with maximum efforts to meet the standards in the care, housing, legal, social and health care of migrants in its territory”, paying special attention to the vulnerable categories of people with children providing them with pre-school, primary and secondary classes.
According to the Commissariat, migrants currently in Serbia have only one goal – to reach Western Europe as quickly as possible. “Serbia is committed to playing an even more active partnership role in addressing the issue of migrants”, the press release said.
At the same time, as the weather has cooled, there have been dozens of cases of migrants self-lodging in houses and villas in villages in the Sombor area and other places in Vojvodina, leading to discontent among local citizens. Rumors have been circulated that about one hundred thousand illegally migrants originally registered in Serbia will be returned from Germany. People were worried that the state could not accommodate such a number of migrants, and increased incidents of self-accommodation would lead to tensions and potential conflicts.