In Serbia, several smuggling networks have recently operated and are still operating, one of which has grown so strong it has established its own “kingdom” in Vojvodina, named after one of the leading traffickers, Mohammed Tetouani, reports Hungarian-language, Balkans-oriented news site Balk.hu.
Mohammed, who was the leader of one of the smuggling gangs in Vojvodina, hails from the Mediterranean port of Tetouan in northern Morocco. He set up his own “haraba,” or smuggling camp, near Horgos, which was dismantled by Serbian police in November 2022. Due to Mohammed’s network being located near Horogos, his criminal enterprise began to be known as the “‘Kingdom of Horgos.”
For more than two years, this haraba had been a temporary home for thousands of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa while they waited for smugglers to take them across the Hungarian-Serbian border, which was just “a few steps” from the so-called Kingdom of Horgos.
Serbian authorities detain 85 migrants, seize automatic firearms and ammunition close to Hungary border
A police task force seized automatic firearms and ammunition, as well as knives and other weapons in the raid
“I have heard of the haraba. They said it was a good place to stay, but when I went there I saw that it was not true, it was like a jungle,” a migrant named Magbul, who came from Syria, told Belgrade’s N1 television.
The “fake state has also issued fake passports,” which migrants needed to reach Europe after Tetouani’s gang takes them into the “promised land.”
In the haraba, when migrants pay the €3,000 fee, they can spend a day or two, or maybe three, while the bosses get everything ready and send the migrants to the border, added Magbul, who noted that if you do not have money, you have no chance of getting further because it’s very difficult to cross the border alone.
According to EU border agency Frontex, “The Western Balkan route has been one of the main migratory paths into Europe due to the influx on the Eastern Mediterranean route. After the record number of arrivals in the European Union in 2015, the number of irregular migrants choosing this route fell steadily for a few years and then started to pick up again from 2019 onwards.”
According to those familiar with the situation, there was only one person living in the “kingdom” who made sure that people had enough food and water, that everything was running smoothly and that there were no conflicts.
One Syrian migrant told the documentary’s producers that “the bosses had subordinates,” usually young people aged 18 to 20, who were allowed into the official camps as workers.
“Yes. They also have people there, officials or others. Everywhere. In Serbia, they have people everywhere,” said an unnamed migrant, who also said that the “bosses” may have been in contact with Hungarian police.
“The bosses have contacts, I don’t know exactly with whom, but they might have contacts with Hungarian police officers, I don’t know exactly. But they have their methods. Every patrón (chief) has a way of getting across the border,” added the migrant, who said that these methods have been developed to perfection by the bosses.
Mohammed’s “kingdom” was eventually disbanded last November, following an hours-long shootout between rival migrant gangs in the Hungarian-inhabited village of Horgos. Police emptied the haraba of the 600 migrants stationed there and arrested the smugglers.
According to Serbian media, there are at least another four similar harabas, also run by Moroccans, in northern Serbia, close to the Hungarian border.