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Serbian, Hungarian Police Agree Joint Action Against People-Smugglers

After three people were killed in armed clashes between people-smugglers, Serbian and Hungarian police agreed to work together in the Serbia-Hungary border area to tackle the criminal gangs involved.

After at least three people were killed the armed clashes between Afghan people-smugglers at the Serbian border with Hungary on October 27, a Hungarian police officer will join Serbian police in operations targeting the gangs involved, the Interior Ministry in Belgrade said on Monday.

The involvement of the Hungarian police officer will ensure a timely exchange of information about the smuggling of migrants, the ministry said.

The agreement to cooperate was made by Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and Hungarian Minister of the Interior Sandor Pinter during a meeting at the Reska border crossing, where they discussed the joint fight against 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,” said a joint statement.

After the October 27 clash near Horgos, a city at the border with Hungary, Serbian police have been conducting an operation that has already been continuing for five days.

The operation in the forested area around the border with Hungary involved officers from the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit and the Gendarmerie and the deployment of police helicopters.

The operation came after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday warned Interior Minister Gasic, his close political associate, that if he is not able to resolve the situation, Vucic will send the army in 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 TV Pink.

During the ongoing operation, police have made arrests and seized arms and illegal passports, mostly Turkish. Among those arrested are two ethnic Albanians from Kosovo who are suspected of smuggling migrants and supplying them with weapons.

A BIRN investigation published in September revealed that rival people-smugglers from Afghanistan, Morocco and Syria are arming themselves in northern Serbia, often with weapons supplied by Albanian crime gangs from Albania, Kosovo and southern Serbia.

Serbian police in recent days have also arrested dozens of people at  the Simke hostel in Subotica, which BIRN named in the investigation as place where a delivery of eight Kalashnikovs to Syrian smugglers was supposed to be made by Kosovo Albanian criminals.

Over the past year and a half, reports of armed clashes between gangs making huge sums of money from spiriting refugees and migrants over Serbia’s borders into the European Union have become more frequent.

Previous reporting by BIRN has exposed the collusion between such gangs and corrupt police officers.

In June 2022, BIRN published an investigation into the activities of Alen Basil, a Serbian-Syrian who worked as a police translator and took down rivals with the help of police on his payroll.

Source : Balkan Insight