Migrants pay people smugglers thousands of euros
People smugglers undertaking to get illegal immigrants across the Serbia-Hungary border allegedly charge fixed rates. The migrants have to pay 1800 euros or more according to local information obtained by V4NA.
The forest has become a no-go zone
There are fewer migrants in Horgos, a village at the Hungary-Serbia border since the recent shootout. Locals say they are happy that the village is not swarming with illegal immigrants to the extent that it was before. Due to the decisive police action, fewer migrants can be seen in the centres of nearby towns. The immigrants opt for the forests along the border instead, and attempt to reach the Europaen Union through the Hungarian border fence with the help of people smugglers. During the evening, V4NA journalists saw as the immigrants were being taken by taxis towards the Hungarian border. The taxis, which had licence plates issued outside of Subotica, were transporting far more people than their legal capacity from reception centres or bus stops to the border fence. Taxi drivers, of course, make a hefty sum on the trips, delivering the migrants for fares well above the market price.
The Makkhetes forest is situated north of Subotica. This is where a major showdown between migrants which first made the news took place in the summer. The forest has been one of the migrants’ favourite locations ever since. Before, it had been a hiking spot frequented by families, young and elderly people alike. Since the shootout, however, the area is practically a no-go zone, with only the bravest of the people in and around Subotica daring to visit it. A hiker told V4NA about the current conditions there. The man, who did not want to disclose his name, said that he was old enough not to be afraid, so he went hiking in the forest from time to time. He added that the migrants living there already know him and greet him in Serbian.
“Just don’t take out your camera or take pictures of them, because that will make them anxious,” said the man from Subotica, adding that one of his acquaintances works for Western Union and migrants are his regular customers. He estimates the amount to be paid to the smugglers at around 1,800 euros. He deduced this from the average amount they receive at once. The money is transferred to them from abroad, in most cases they are being funded from Germany by their compatriots, who already managed to get there, the man explained.
Migrants hunt game
But the forest of Makkhetes is not the only area affected, migrants have also moved in the forests along the Tisa River, in the Kanjiza area. V4NA received a photo from a local hunter showing migrants posing with a captured deer. Our news agency understands that migrants hunt down more and more game, causing serious damage to wildlife and posing a threat to locals. “We never know which migrant has a gun and whether he intends to use it,” the hunter, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, added.
Migrants have their own equipment and supplies to spend longer periods in the forrest. They buy tents, make fire with trees felled from the forest and even obtain electricity. In Subotica, Chinese shops have already responded to the demand, selling power banks at a discount. They use these emergency chargers to charge their expensive phones in the forest.
Police work to detain people smugglers
The Serbian police are constantly working to curb people smuggling. For example, in early December, eight people were arrested in a coordinated operation on suspicion of smuggling. They are accused of helping 138 illegal immigrants to cross the country and smuggling them into Hungary, Romania and Croatia. For this they were paid between 1,000 and 6,000 euros per migrant, the police statement reveals.
After searching the suspects’ homes and other properties, the police also found drugs, scales, 9,580 euros in cash, 14 mobile phones and 13 SIM cards, three pistols, three air rifles, 81 bullets, two pistol magazines and pepper spray, among other items.
In Serbia, the Criminal Code prescribes a prison sentence of up to one year for those who try to cross the border without a permit, while smugglers can be sentenced from six months to five years, Radio Free Europe reports. The punishment is more severe if the offenders are members of organised criminal groups. According to the information provided by the Primary Prosecutor’s Office in Subotica, a total of 24 people were sentenced for illegal border crossing and people smuggling between January 1, 2020 and November 30, 2022. In three of those cases, a suspended sentence was handed down, while the others received a prison sentence. Of those convicted, 13 were Serbian citizens, while the others were from Syria and Turkey, and one each from Iraq and Italy. In the same period, a total of 87 migrants were sentenced in Subotica for other crimes. Eight of them were handed down a suspended sentence, with seven others receiving a fine, and 72 were sent to prison. The prosecutor’s office did not specify the break down of the convictions.