Illegal migrants attempting to cross from Serbia into Hungary are being armed by the Albanian mafia in Kosovo, Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic has claimed.
Speaking in Belgrade on Thursday, Gasic said that a number of firearms recently confiscated by border officials on the Serbian-Hungarian border have been traced back to organized crime groups operating in Pristina who are facilitating the influx of illegal activity on the European Union’s external frontier.
“They are not migrants, they are organized criminal gangs, and we are fighting them,” Gasic said. He underlined that the Albanian mafia in Kosovo supports these organized groups not just with the provision of firearms but in other ways, including transportation and subsistence.
At the end of October, hundreds of Serbian police officers were deployed to the Serbian-Hungarian border and nearby settlements following an armed clash between migrants that resulted in fatalities.
In the fortnight that followed, Serbian authorities detained 4,931 migrants in the areas of Subotica, Zombor, Nagykikinda, and Pirot in southeast Serbia; they also recovered nine machine guns, five pistols, more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition, hundreds of passports, and small quantities of narcotics.
During the operation, eight people were arrested for human trafficking and 190 others were detained for various offenses.
At the height of the migration crisis in 2015, about a million illegal immigrants crossed the so-called Western Balkan route, of which Serbia is a part. According to official figures, the most popular route for illegal immigration is still the land route through the Western Balkans.
Since the Serbian authorities do not deport those who are intercepted, but only transport them back from the northern border to the southern border, many migrants are on the move again and reach the Hungarian border a few days later, where they try to re-enter the European Union.