North Macedonia police find 80 migrants, arrest truck driver

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Police in North Macedonia said Sunday they have found 80 migrants during a routine check in the central part of the country and arrested a truck driver for suspected migrant smuggling.

Police said in a statement that 79 Pakistanis and an Eritrean were found Saturday in the truck about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the capital, Skopje.

The truck driver, a 20-year-old North Macedonian national identified only by his initials A.F., was arrested as he tried to flee. He faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

The migrants were transferred to the migrant shelter in the southern border town of Gevgelija, pending deportation to Greece.

In two separate operations on Friday, police said they found a total of 55 migrants, including children, and arrested two men.

The Greek border with North Macedonia was closed earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But trafficking networks remain active, ferrying migrants who make their way from Turkey into Greece and then attempt to head north, through Serbia, to more prosperous countries in the European Union.

Police said that in July alone they had detained a total of 567 migrants attempting to illegally pass through North Macedonia and had arrested nine people, including three Serbian nationals, suspected of migrant trafficking.

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