| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Bulgarian police find 18 Afghan migrants dead in abandoned truck

Four persons have been detained by Bulgarian police after they discovered the deaths of 18 Afghani migrants, including a child, in an abandoned vehicle close to Sofia, according to officials on Friday.

The truck was discovered close to the village of Lokorsko, the interior ministry claimed in a statement, and it was delivering timber and carrying illegal immigrants concealed in compartments.

According to Borislav Sarafov, the head of the National Investigative Service, some of the migrants suffocated.

The migrants crossed the border with neighbouring Turkey illegally and hid in the woods for two days before they were loaded onto the truck near the city of Yambol in southeastern Bulgaria, he told reporters.

Thirty four migrants, including five children, were rushed to hospitals in Sofia and some were in a critical, but stable, condition, Health Minister Asen Medzhidiev said.

“There has been a lack of oxygen to those who were locked in this truck. They were freezing, wet, they have not eaten for several days,” Medzhidiev told reporters.

One of the four people detained had already been sentenced for human trafficking, said Atanas Ilkov, a senior police official. He said charges would be made once there was enough evidence.

Bulgaria is situated on a route used by migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan to enter the European Union.

Most do not stay in the country, but look to move on to richer countries in Western Europe, often using elaborate networks of smugglers.

Three Bulgarian truck drivers were detained in 2015 and eventually charged with the murders of 71 migrants who were discovered dead next to an Austrian highway.

Due to security and rule-of-law concerns, Austria and the Netherlands prevented Bulgaria from entering the Schengen region of the EU without a passport in December. However, the country will attempt to enter again this year.

  • Reuters