NW Bulgarian Gangs 'Specialized in People Smuggling'

Crime | December 7, 2016, Wednesday // 16:19
Bulgaria: NW Bulgarian Gangs 'Specialized in People Smuggling' File photo, BGNES

Organized criminal gangs from Northwestern Bulgaria are increasingly "specialized" in people smuggling, local authorities say.

Groups in the poorest region of Bulgaria (and the EU) lead migrants down barely accessible routes through villages and remote areas that are difficult to reach by using regular vehicles, the head of the police department in Vidin has told the Bulgarian National Radio.

They seek to "evade police checks done by us and border police," Yanko Yankolov has explained in an interview with the public broadcaster.

Migrants are normally left to spend the night in derelict buildings (a common sight across the region) and headed to the border with Serbia on the day after.

Some of them make several attempts to cross but are always detained, he says. "Their goal is Western Europe, since they have relatives there and people waiting for them, their relatives are also there. They will try until they succeed."

Most come from Afghanistan and are registered with the State Agency for Refugees.

Until the spring, migrants crossing Bulgaria would normally use the western border to enter Serbia and from there had to Hungary, Austria and Germany.

However, Belgrade stepped up border controls and criticized Sofia for lax security at the common frontier over the past months.

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Tags: Vidin, Yanko Yankolov, people smuggling, migrants, Serbia
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