MS Risk Blog

Human Trafficking Problem in North Macedonia

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North Macedonia has been widely known as an international transit for human trafficking. However during the coronavirus pandemic, the problem has been rising significantly. In August 2020 alone, authorities have discovered 322 illegal migrants throughout North Macedonia in several different operations. On 9 August, authorities discovered 94 migrants which consisted of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani nationals inside a truck. The migrants were discovered when a police patrol stopped the truck near the town of Radovish, 110 kilometers from the capital city of Skopje. However, the truck driver managed to flee from the scene. On 14 August, authorities discovered 148 migrants inside trucks from two different operations and arrested two people. The first operation was conducted in the town of Demir Kapija which the authorities found 103 migrants, including 29 children. The majority of the migrants were from Pakistan, which consisted of 81 people. Ten migrants were from Afghanistan, 8 from India, 2 from Egypt, and 1 each from Iran and Syria. The second operation was conducted in the village of Vaksince with another 45 migrants from Syria, Bangladesh, Somalia, Pakistan, and Palestine being discovered inside an abandoned truck. During this operation, the truck driver again managed to flee the scene. On 17 August, authorities discovered 80 migrants inside a lorry during an inspection on the road between Negorino and Gradsko, centre of North Macedonia. The driver of the lorry initially managed to escape but was quickly captured and arrested and is charged with human trafficking. All of the migrants were Pakistani nationals except one individual from Eritrea. The authorities stated that all of these discoveries on 9, 14, and 17 August have one similarity in regards to their embarkment location which was from Greece. The migrants have since been detained and will be transferred to a migrant shelter in the southern border town of Gevgelija, pending deportation to Greece. Authorities have also stated that while the Greek border with North Macedonia was closed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, trafficking networks have remained active, ferrying migrants who make their way from Turkey into Greece and then attempt to head north, through North Macedonia to more prosperous countries in the European Union.

As this problem has existed in North Macedonia, the government was expected to conduct vigorous measures to counter it. However, it has been reported by several investigations that the government’s efforts in combating human trafficking was still below the standard set by the international community. North Macedonian authorities have been reported for not having adequate funding and equipment to conduct proactive investigations in regards to preventing and countering human trafficking in North Macedonia. The Organized Crime and Corruption Prosecution Office (OCCPO) also lacked sufficient resources, including staff, to handle all cases under their jurisdiction. Other than that, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained an obstacle to conduct an effective and efficient countermeasure. For instance, although several cases have pointed to the involvement of corruption within the government which boosts the human trafficking practice, the government has not prosecuted any officials for complicity specifically pertaining to trafficking in the last 3 years. Ironically, the last 3 years was the period in which human trafficking in North Macedonia reached its peak. Moreover, instead of tightening the law, the government decided to reduce the minimum sentence for any complicit involved in human trafficking from 8 years to 5 years imprisonment.

In order to solve this problem, there is no other way for the government other than to strengthen its measure regarding its approach towards the issue of human trafficking. More cooperation with nations such as Turkey and Greece, which are also known as international transit points for human trafficking, is considered to be imperative. Investigation and prosecution must also be conducted in a more vigorous manner. Strengthening sentences for the complicit should be seriously taken into consideration as a step forward to fight this issue. Allocating sufficient resources to the authorities and prosecutors should also be conducted, while at the same time increasing the funding for anti-trafficking operation. Human trafficking should be taken seriously, as it is a criminal offence which mimics and supports one of the cruellest practices ever taken in the history of mankind, which is slavery. The betterment of humanity will always start by acknowledging the mistake of the past and make a strenuous effort on making it up.