Two Pakistanis and two Afghan minors have been arrested and charged for detaining fellow migrants in a makeshift camp at North Macedonia’s border with Serbia and torturing them, authorities said Sunday.
North Macedonia’s public prosecutor’s office said the suspects had set up the makeshift camp where they forcibly kept other migrants who had entered the country illegally from Greece and were waiting to cross into Serbia on their way to other, wealthier European countries. The criminal gang had operated since August, prosecutors allege.
Authorities said the migrants were kept forcibly in the camp, their passports and mobile phones confiscated. The suspects, according to the authorities, “physically abused the victims, photographed them and sent their photos to family members, asking for money to let victims to continue on their route.”
The suspects “tortured the victims to extort money, were very cruel and also sexually abused” the detained migrants, the statement said.
Some of the kidnapped migrants managed to report their plight to family members in Serbia. Police from North Macedonia and Serbia raided the camp Saturday, discovering 35 migrants, including nine 14- and 15-year-olds. Authorities have not revealed the nationalities of the kidnapped migrants.
An investigating magistrate in North Macedonia’s capital of Skopje ordered the suspected to be held in pretrial detention. If convicted, they face up to eight years in jail.