South Asian migrants held for ransom, abused in North Macedonia

Four suspects charged over exploitation of group of 12 migrants, who they physically attacked and fed only once a day.

    At least 128,536 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe last year, according to the IOM [File: Marko Djurica/Reuters]
    At least 128,536 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe last year, according to the IOM [File: Marko Djurica/Reuters]

    Criminal charges have been filed against three Pakistanis and a Macedonian national for allegedly "imprisoning" a group of migrants and holding them to ransom in North Macedonia.

    The accused men were believed to have behaved in a "particularly degrading and cruel" manner to a group of 12 migrants, including two children, from India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, prosecutors said.

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    They had detained the group for two weeks in October, prosecutors added.

    The victims were reportedly held against their will in a house belonging to one of the defendants, with the windows sealed with black bags.

    Those held were unable to tell day from night and lost all sense of time, according to a statement from the prosecutors' office.

    They received one meal a day.

    "When the migrants wished to leave, the accused Pakistanis intended to extract additional money from them, degrading and cruelly hitting them with a hose on their bodies, then stabbing them in the back and threatening to kill them," the statement added.

    One of the accused is alleged to have recorded the abuse on his phone, using the videos to extort money from the victims' relatives in Western Europe.

    If payment was not delivered by set deadlines, the victims would be beaten.

    The case was reported to Serbian police by friends of the victims, leading to a search operation conducted by Macedonian police, which led to their discovery.

    Criminal charges were filed against the suspects on Monday.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies