Authorities in North Macedonia said Monday that 10 men were arrested as suspected members of an international people smuggling ring following an investigation that lasted nearly two years.
In a statement Monday, police described the group as a sophisticated criminal organization that operated routes between Greece and Hungary as well as from Bulgaria and Serbia to various destinations in the European Union, charging each migrant between 2,000 and 4,000 euros ($2,140 and $4,280).
Seven other alleged members of the organization have been identified by investigators, three of whom are already in prison for separate offenses and four who are wanted for arrest.
Police raided 11 locations in three towns in North Macedonia. The 10 arrested suspects as well as their alleged associates were charged with people smuggling offenses that carry a minimum prison sentence of five years.
Smuggling activity has increased in the region in recent weeks, in part because of low water levels along the Evros River that forms a natural border between Turkey and European Union member Greece. On Sunday, Greek authorities rescued 91 migrants, mostly from Syria, from an islet on the Evros River and transferred them to a nearby processing center.