At least 18 immigrants have died of suffocation inside the truck in which they were locked up and which was abandoned some 25 kilometers from Sofia, according to sources from the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior.
The Bulgarian Police found 40 irregular immigrants inside the vehicle, 18 of whom had died of suffocation, locked in a false compartment under a load of wood. Twelve other immigrants were found alive outside the truck. Among the deceased is a 7-year-old boy.
According to statements from some of the survivors, the human smugglers simply abandoned the truck for unknown reasons and escaped.
The Emergency Medical Relief Service told the bTV station that the rest of the truck’s occupants have been taken to hospitals in Sofia and that fourteen of them are in critical condition.
“They have not received food for several days, they suffer from dehydration and have various wounds all over their bodies, I cannot say what caused them,” Bulgarian Health Minister Asen Medzhidiev said after visiting some of the wounded.
He also stated that they were suffering from symptoms of suffocation and hypothermia.
“We assume that the migrants were transported from the Bulgarian-Turkish border to the area around the town of Dragoman to then cross into Serbia,” an Interior Ministry source said.
They are all men and would be Afghans
The Police have indicated that all the migrants are men, between the ages of 15 and 25, and that they are believed to be Afghan citizens.
According to the Nova TV station, at least one person related to the death of the migrants has already been arrested.
That source notes that the driver or drivers abandoned the vehicle on a rarely traveled rural road and escaped when they realized that some of the refugees had died.
Authorities are investigating whether the load of wood they were hiding under slipped and crushed the people hiding below.
Bulgaria, a member of the European Union but not of the Schengen zone of free movement, is part of the route by which migrants and refugees try to get through Turkey, Serbia and other Balkan countries to rich countries in Western Europe. And this despite the construction of a 234 km barrier along the border with Turkey. Bulgarian police claim to have prevented the entry of 164,000 people in 2022 and 55,000 the year before.
Immigration has once again occupied a prominent place on the European agenda. The increase in irregular arrivals and asylum applications in the European Union in 2022 puts pressure on the reception capacity of some countries.
Source: Euronews Español