Serbian and Hungarian police have agreed to work together against people smuggling operations in the border area between the two countries.
The decision comes after at least three people were killed in armed clashes on 27 October between Afghan people-smugglers at the Serbian border with Hungary. From now on, a Hungarian police officer will join Serbian police in operations targeting the people smuggling gangs involved, said the Interior Ministry in Belgrade.
The decision to cooperate was made by the Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and Hungarian Minister of the Interior Sandor Pinter. The two leaders met at the Reska border crossing, where they discussed efforts to tackle “irregular migration.”
“In order to fight against organised crime and irregular migration, it was proposed to establish a joint working group between members of the ministries of interior affairs of Serbia and Hungary,” read a joint statement released by the two interior ministries.
Following the 27 October incident near Horgos, a city on the border with Hungary Serbian police commenced an investigative operation that has been in place for more than five days.
The operation, which is taking place in the forested area near the border with Hungary, is involving the efforts of officers from the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, the Gendarmerie, and the deployment of police helicopters.
The operation was implemented after the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reportedly warned Interior Minister Gasic that if the latter was unable to resolve the situation, then President Vucic would deploy military forces to the north.
“I said today, it’s not the first time I’ve talked to the interior minister. You will either do the things you have to do, or say that you are not able to do it. Take cover, I’ll bring in the army and we’ll clear it up, arrest them and put them behind bars,” Vucic told media outlet TV Pink.
Police have already made several arrests, seized arms and confiscated illegal passports. Two ethnic Albanians from Kosovo are among those arrested, on suspicion of smuggling migrants and supplying them with weapons.
According to a media investigation published in September, rival people smuggling gangs from Afghanistan, Morocco and Syria are arming themselves in northern Serbia. They often do this with weapons supplied by Albanian criminal gangs from Albania, Kosovo and southern Serbia.
Over the past year and a half, reports of armed conflicts between people smuggling gangs have increased in frequency. These groups make substantial sums of money smuggling refugees and migrants over Serbia’s borders and into the European Union.
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