Police in North Macedonia find 36 migrants packed in truck

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Police in North Macedonia found 36 migrants who are believed to have entered the country illegally from Greece packed in a truck during a routine check. The driver was arrested.

Police said Wednesday that officers stopped the truck near the southern town of Strumitsa the previous day. They said the three dozen people in the truck included 21 Syrians, nine Afghans, three Pakistanis, two Iraqis and one person from Cameroon.

The passengers were transferred to a migrant detention center in the border town of Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece.

Although the so-called Balkan route from Greece through the Balkans and on to Europe’s prosperous heartland has been closed since 2015, thousands still pay large sums to smugglers to make their way north.

The North Macedonian prosecutor’s office said Wednesday it was filing charges in a separate case against a German man and an Italian woman suspected of smuggling migrants.

The prosecutor’s office alleged the two attempted to smuggle three men into the country from Greece on Jan. 5 in a car with German license plates. According to the prosecutor's office, the men from Ghana were given fake Dutch, Swedish and German ID’s and their final destination was Austria.

Both suspected smugglers are in custody pending trial and if found guilty, they could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.