SKOPJE, North Macedonia -- A truck carrying Syrian migrants believed to have entered from neighboring Greece overturned on a road in North Macedonia, injuring 35 people, police said Thursday.
A police statement said 49 people were in the heavy vehicle during the crash late Wednesday near the southern village of Marvinci. They said one of the injured migrants was in serious condition. The cause of the crash was unclear.
The 35 injured migrants were taken for treatment to hospitals in the southern towns of Strumica and Gevgelija. The rest were led to a detention center in Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece.
The truck driver, who police believe belongs to a migrant smuggling ring, escaped on foot.
Police said the migrants were believed to be heading north to neighboring Serbia, with a view of continuing from there to wealthier European countries.
The relaxation of travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more migrants attempting to use the Balkan route into Europe, going through Turkey and Greece to North Macedonia and Serbia.
Police spokeswoman Suzana Pranikj told The Associated Press that so far this year police have prevented more than 11,500 people from illegally entering the country — 88% of them from Greece.
In the same period, police arrested 62 suspected migrant smugglers — 15 of them foreign nationals.
According to Pranikj, the number of arriving migrants has doubled compared to the same period last year. They mostly originate from Pakistan, Syria and India.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration