Bosnia and Herzegovina: Six Charged with Smuggling Migrants

Bosnia's special organized crime prosecutor has charged six peoplewith smuggling Turkish migrants into Germany through Bosnia.

Western Balkans regionThe Jan. 16 indictment represents the latest case in a rising trend of migrants being smuggled through the Balkans into the European Union(EU) by trafficking gangs for financial gain.

Prosecutors say that Mehe Besic, 43;Elvedin Masic, 51; NikolaStojanovic, 51; Nail Salkic, 46; Damir Zilic, 40;  and Zijad Omerovic, 46, were members of an organized human trafficking group based in the northeastern town of Srebrenik that transported undocumented Turkish migrants through Bosnia towards EU countries.

The indictment accuses Besic of leading and organizing the group to smuggle eight Turkish nationals into Germany from Bosnia between September and October 2012. Masic and Stojanovic are further accused of transporting another three Turkish nationals in November 2012 from Serbia to Germany.

Balkan countries are a transit region for many Turkish migrants hoping to enter the EU without visas. Since Turkish citizens enjoy visa-free travel in Western Balkan countries, they can legally fly to Bosnia from Istanbul before illegally moving on into the EU.

The region is also used as a transit country for migrants from Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Algeria, Somalia, and other Asian and African countries. Once the migrants arrive, illegal border crossing to the EU is organized by small local criminal groups for a fee.There has been a three-fold increase in migrants passing through the Hungarian-Serbian border during 2013.

The surge of refugees fleeing from ongoing violent conflict in Syria is also thought to have led to the forging of new trafficking routes through the Mediterranean. Apart from taking physical risks, migrants on their way to Western Europe are often financially exploited or coerced into unpaid labor to discharge their debts to the smugglers.