Global Initiative says migrant smuggling worth millions in Western Balkans

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The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime said in its latest report that the migrant smuggling through the Western Balkans is worth more than 50 million Euro a year.

The estimate is significantly lower than at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015 but there are indications that migrant smuggling is still a big business in the region despite attempts to close the Balkan Route, the report said. “When calculating the value chain, it should be kept in mind that the portion of the journey through the Western Balkans is part of a longer route. Additional money is being made both upstream and downstream from the Western Balkans. Furthermore, it is our sense that the Western Balkans is considered a low-budget route,” it added.

The Geneva-based NGO said that it had identified key entry and exit points in the six countries of the Western Balkans, adding that the pandemic does not seem to have disrupted the routes. Serbia was designated an important destination for asylum seekers and migrants because it borders on four European Union member states – Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The report said that most migrants tried to enter Serbia from North Macedonia with families being sent to refugee centers in southern Serbia and single migrants allowed to move on to Belgrade. It said that migrants take one of three routes through Serbia: north to Hungary, west to Bosnia-Herzegovina or northwest to Croatia. According to the report, the Serbian police discovered tunnels under the border between Serbia and Hungary with smugglers charging between 500 and 5,000 Euro to take migrants through them.

One overall conclusion is that flows of people, drugs and money through the Western Balkans do not follow straight lines, like vectors on a map. They move often over short distances, and take different paths depending on obstacles and opportunities. They are attracted to certain entry points that are low risk and require collaborators – both in the underworld and the upperworld – to move further,” the report said.

The report said that more information needs to be collected along with greater coordination between law enforcement agencies in the Western Balkans to resolve the issue.