SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Police in the Balkans have arrested 21 men suspected of smuggling close to 200 Turks to the European Union, officials said on Thursday.
The suspects, including a Turkish national who is believed to be the ring leader, are accused of taking advantage of visa -free travel between Turkey and Bosnia and Montenegro to transfer migrants by plane from Istanbul to Sarajevo and Podgorica.
They were then smuggled into EU member Croatia and further on to Western Europe, said police who ran a joint operation involving officers from Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro.
The suspected smugglers, who are nationals of Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia, charged migrants 3,500 to 5,000 euros per person to reach EU member states, said Adnan Kosovac, a Bosnian border police official.
Kosovac said that as well as the arrests on Wednesday, the police also raided several houses in western Bosnia and neighbouring Croatia where the gang kept illegal migrants and seized mobile phones, SIM cards and money.
Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Alison Williams