Serbia’s crackdown on illegal immigration continued this week with the detention of 738 irregular migrants in cities close to the Hungarian border.
In a statement by the Serbian Interior Ministry published on Thursday, a police taskforce located the undocumented migrants in the northern cities of Subotica, Sombor, and Kikinda, as well as in the southeastern city of Pirot near the Bulgarian border.
“In today’s operation, the police inspected 32 facilities, as well as 5,096 vehicles, and on that occasion, only in the territory of the Kikinda Police Department, they found and seized a total of 87 foreign passports and six identity cards,” the statement read.
Serbian authorities filed misdemeanor charges against seven irregular migrants, while criminal charges were brought against two suspected people smugglers accused of bringing in illegal migrants from Bulgaria.
“In the coming days, the police will take increased measures and engage all police forces in the implementation of this action to suppress irregular migration so that the population feels even safer and more secure,” the statement added.
The situation in northern Serbia close to the Hungarian border has escalated in recent months, with the latest migratory wave into Europe leading to civil unrest in the region.
Violence and shootings have become commonplace as thousands of migrants, who camp in the Serbian forests near Hungary under the orders of people smugglers, become increasingly more desperate to breach the European Union’s external border.
Last week, Serbian police arrested six people and seized several automatic weapons after a shoot-out between migrants near the village of Horgos that left three people dead and one injured. Four Afghan and two Turkish nationals were detained.
‘War situation’ – Serbian fisherman nearly shot during people smuggler gun battle caught on video near Hungarian border
A number of Serbians participating in a fishing competition were nearly shot when bullets went flying past them
Local residents have described the situation unfolding on the border as “war-like” and expressed their fear at the escalation of tensions in the region.
“It was only by luck that none of the local residents were injured. We were very afraid. Our lives were in danger,” a Serb told Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet after Serbian fishermen were fired at back in June.
Other residents have taken matters into their own hands by patrolling the woodlands near their homes after several attacks on civilians, including one family home that was targeted by two hand grenades in the border village of Hajdukovo in August.
‘This is no longer Serbia, it’s Syria!’ Local Serbs patrol woods to repel migrants near Hungarian border
Local residents have taken matters into their own hands after a series of violent attacks on their communities by migrants and people smugglers
“This is unimaginable. This is no longer Serbia, it’s Syria. There’s nothing else to say. We can’t walk freely, we can’t move, but they walk around with guns, throwing grenades. Not only here, but also elsewhere,” said resident Sándor Balog.
“We have run out of patience. If the police don’t do something, we will take control, if necessary we will close the motorway or the railway to stop them. Either they put things in order or the population does something,” he added.