Arrests in Bulgaria after 18 Afghan migrants, including a child, found dead in a truck
Bulgarian police say they have arrested seven people in connection with the tragic deaths of 18 Afghan migrants trying to enter Europe illegally. One of the victims was a child.
All of them died of asphyxiation in the back of a truck abandoned near the capital, Sofia, by the smugglers who were transporting them.
Another 34 migrants who were travelling in the lorry were taken to hospital, including five children.
"At the moment, 19 people remain in medical facilities," said caretaker Health Minister Asen Medzhidiev. "Eight people were released...most of them were accommodated in the State Agency for Refugees."
When police arrived at the truck the driver had fled. They uncovered the passengers in a secret compartment below the timber the vehicle was carrying.
Borislav Sarafov, the chief of Bulgaria's National Investigation Service, was able to give more details on some of those arrested:
"The group consists of six people, according to the data we have so far. The smugglers prepared the hiding places themselves, equipping them with foil to prevent the x-ray from detecting heat from human bodies."
The authorities have described the events as the worst migration drama the country has ever experienced.
Bulgaria, a Balkan country of some seven million people, is located on a major route for migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan to Europe.
Only a small number of them plan to stay in the European Union’s poorest member, using Bulgaria instead as a transit corridor on their way west.
To prevent people from entering the country illegally, Bulgaria’s government erected a barbed-wire fence along its 259km border with Turkey.
But foreigners fleeing poverty or conflict in their home countries manage to enter with the help of local people smugglers.