Thu, 13 May 2021

SARAJEVO, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Five Afghan nationals suspected of smuggling migrants have been arrested in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the Prosecutor's Office of BiH said on Tuesday.

The office coordinated a joint operation dubbed "Fast" that involved five BiH and two Croatian law enforcement agencies.

It took several months to uncover and document the smugglers' activities. During the operation, search and arrest warrants were executed at six locations in the BiH capital Sarajevo and in Derventa, a border town some 190 km north of the capital.

Two members of the migrant smuggling ring were arrested in Croatia simultaneously, said the State Investigation and Protection Agency of BiH (SIPA), one of the agencies involved in the operation.

The group is suspected of smuggling several dozen migrants, mostly Afghan nationals, from BiH to Croatia and further towards the other countries of the European Union (EU).

Operation "Fast" is one of several operations conducted jointly by partner agencies in the region and the EU with the aim of combating illegal migration in BiH, the Prosecutor's Office said.

The Border Police of BiH and other relevant state agencies have recently said they are preparing for a new influx of migrants in the spring, when the weather becomes more favorable.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants had passed through the so-called Balkan route on their way to western Europe before the route was declared closed in 2016.

According to the BiH's Ministry of Security, around 8,500 migrants and asylum seekers are currently staying in the country. Most of them live in reception centers, but up to 3,000 reside in abandoned houses and makeshift accommodations.

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