By Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2020

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) - Police in North Macedonia say they have detained 61 migrants and arrested five suspected traffickers following highway checks and raids on Sunday and Monday.

Thirty migrants from Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia were found hidden in a truck near the central city of Veles. The driver fled the vehicle but was later arrested, police said.

In a separate incident, another 28 migrants, including four children, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were found after police raided two homes in a northern region near the border with Serbia and arrested three men. Three other migrants of unknown nationality were also found in a car near the border, and the driver was arrested.

The five smuggling suspects, all men, are North Macedonian nationals, police said.

The migrants are believed to have entered North Macedonia illegally from Greece and were due to be deported back to the neighboring country. If convicted, the suspected migrant traffickers face up to five years in prison.

Greece’s border with North Macedonia was closed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic but trafficking networks in the area remain active.

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