At least 32 people have died off the coast of southern Greece after a fishing boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized and sank, authorities said Wednesday. A large search and rescue operation was launched in the area. Authorities said 104 people have been rescued so far following the nighttime incident some 75 kilometers (46 miles) southwest of Greece's southern Peloponnese region. Also Read: At least 39 migrants dead in bus crash in Panama Four of the survivors were hospitalized with symptoms of hypothermia. It was unclear how many passengers might remain missing at sea after the 32 bodies were recovered, the Greek coast guard said. Six coast guard vessels, a navy frigate, a military transport plane, an air force helicopter, several private vessels and a drone from the European Union border protection agency, Frontex, were taking part in the ongoing search. Also Read: Migrant boat breaks up off Italian coast, killing nearly 60 The Italy-bound boat is believed to have sailed from the Tobruk area in eastern Libya. The Italian coast guard first alerted Greek authorities and Frontex about the approaching vessel on Tuesday. Smugglers are increasingly taking larger boats into international waters off the Greek mainland to try to avoid local coast guard patrols. Also Read: Death toll from Greece train crash rises to 57 On Sunday, 90 migrants on a U.S.-flagged yacht were rescued in the area after they made a distress call. Separately Wednesday, a yacht with 81 migrants on board was towed to a port on the south coast of Greece's island of Crete after authorities received a distress call. Also Read: Greece: 3 dead after boat with migrants hits rocks
A committee of British lawmakers said Sunday that the U.K. will break its international human rights commitments if it goes through with government plans to detain and deport people who cross the English Channel in small boats. Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights said the Illegal Migration Bill "breaches a number of the U.K.'s international human rights obligations and risks breaching others." Also Read: UK’s Sunak vows to halve inflation, tackle illegal migration Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry, who chairs the committee, said the law would leave most refugees and victims of modern slavery with no way of seeking asylum in Britain. "By treating victims of modern slavery as 'illegal migrants' subject to detention and removal, this bill would breach our legal obligations to such victims and would risk increasing trafficking of vulnerable people," she said. The committee urged the government to make sweeping amendments to the bill, including exempting trafficking victims and curbing the government's power to detain people indefinitely. The government, which had pledged to "stop the boats," is unlikely to heed the recommendations. The legislation bars asylum claims by anyone who reaches the U.K. by unauthorized means, and compels officials to detain and then deport refugees and migrants "to their home country or a safe third country," such as Rwanda. Once deported, they would be banned from ever re-entering the U.K. Also Read: Asylum seeker accommodation in UK ‘racialised segregation and de facto detention’: Report Britain's Conservative government says the law will deter tens of thousands of people from making perilous journeys across the Channel and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind the trips. Critics, including the United Nations' refugee agency, have described the legislation as unethical and unworkable. The parliamentary committee questioned whether the law would act as a deterrent and said it "could lead to people taking other, potentially more dangerous, routes into the UK." The bill has been approved by the House of Commons, where the governing Conservatives have a majority, but is facing opposition in Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords. The Lords can amend the legislation but not block it. Also Read: EU+ saw 1 million asylum applications, including record 34,000 from Bangladeshis, in 2022 More than 45,000 people, including many fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, arrived in Britain in small boats last year, up from 8,500 in 2020. The government has housed many of those awaiting asylum decisions in hotels, which officials say costs taxpayers millions of pounds (dollars) a day. Authorities have said they plan to place new arrivals in disused military camps and a barge docked on the southern English coast.
For Nidal Jumaa, a Syrian from Aleppo, life in Turkey is tough. He works part-time at a furniture workshop and collects plastics and cardboard from trash cans that he sells for recycling, but can hardly afford the rent for his run-down house in a low-income neighborhood of Ankara. Despite the hardship, the 31-year-old would prefer to remain in Turkey than return to Syria where he no longer has a house or a job. Most of all, he worries that his 2-year-old son, Hikmat, who requires regular medical supervision following two surgeries, wouldn't be able to receive the treatment he needs back home. “Where would we go in Syria? Everywhere is destroyed because of the war,” Jumaa said. “We can’t go back. Hikmat is sick. He can’t even walk.” Also Read: Turkey’s opposition denounces fairness of vote under Erdogan Syrians fleeing the civil war — now into its 12th year — were once welcomed in Turkey out of compassion, making the country home to the world’s largest refugee community. But as their numbers grew — and as the country began to grapple with a battered economy, including skyrocketing food and housing prices — so did calls for their return. A shortage of housing and shelters following a devastating earthquake in February revived calls for the return of Syrians, who number at least 3.7 million. The repatriation of Syrians and other migrants has become a top theme in Sunday's presidential and parliamentary elections when the country will decide whether to give incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a new mandate to rule or bring an opposition candidate to power. All three presidential hopefuls running against Erdogan have promised to send refugees back. Erdogan himself has not mentioned the migration issue on the campaign trail. However, faced with a wave of backlash against refugees, his government has been seeking ways to resettle Syrians back home. Also Read: Turkey’s Erdogan faces tough election amid quake, inflation Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the joint candidate of an alliance of opposition parties that includes nationalists, says he plans to repatriate Syrians on a voluntary basis within two years. If elected, he would seek European Union funds to build homes, schools, hospitals and other amenities in Syria and encourage Turkish entrepreneurs to open factories and businesses to create employment. Kilicdaroglu has also said that he would renegotiate a 2016 migration deal between Turkey and the European Union, under which the EU offered the country billions of euros in return for Ankara's cooperation in stemming the flow of refugees into European countries. “How long must we carry this heavy load?” Kilicdaroglu said in an address to ambassadors from European nations last month. “We want peace in Syria. We want our Syrian brothers and sisters who took refuge in our country to live in peace in their own country.” Sinan Ogan, a candidate backed by an anti-migrant party, says his government would consider sending Syrians back “by force if necessary.” Faced with mounting public pressure, Erdogan’s government, who long defended its open-door policy toward refugees, began constructing thousands brick homes in Turkish-controlled areas of northern Syria to encourage voluntary returns. His government is also seeking reconciliation with Syrian President Bashir Assad to ensure the refugees’ safe return. The Syrian government, however, has made normalization of ties conditional on Turkey withdrawing its troops from areas under its control following a series of military incursions, and on Ankara cutting support to opposition groups. “Realistically speaking, implementing the promises (of repatriation) is much harder than restoring the (Turkish) economy,” said Omar Kadkoy, an expert on migration at the Ankara-based TEPAV think tank. “At the end of the day, if the opposition comes to power or if the government stays in power, I don’t really see how they could repatriate 3.5 million Syrians in two years.” Kadkoy continued: “Assad is so maximalist with his demands from Turkey to accept millions of people back. I don’t think Turkey is ready to meet his demands.” Around 60,000 Syrians crossed the border into northern Syria following the earthquake, after Turkey relaxed regulations allowing them to return to Syria and remain there for a maximum of six months. The move allowed refugees to check on family or homes in quake-hit areas of northern Syria. It was not immediately known how many have crossed back into Turkey, or plan to do so. Kadkoy says high inflation and a cost of living crisis have made life for Syrians in Turkey difficult. “But when compared to ... having no place to stay, no functioning democracy ... where you might be subjected to bombing and shelling at any given moment, (Syrians) prefer the bad conditions here in Turkey over having nothing in Syria,” he said. In Ankara’s impoverished Ismetpasa neighborhood, plastic sheets partially cover the roof to keep the rain out of the house where Jumaa, his wife Jawahir and their four children live. The family has no furniture and they sleep on mats they throw around a coal heater. Jawahir Jumaa says their home in Syria was destroyed in air raids. The few relatives that have remained there live in tents that are flooded in winter months. “The living conditions (here) are better than in Syria,” she said. Hikmat, her youngest son, had a cyst and a tumor removed from his head and back. “They can’t treat him in Syria. They don’t know how,” Jawahir added. Asked about the anti-migrant sentiment and calls for the repatriation of Syrians, Nidal Jumaa was fatalistic. “There is nothing we can do, for now we are carrying on living. We are under the mercy of God,” he responded. The neighborhood is close to an area where riots broke out two years ago after a Turkish teenager was stabbed to death in a fight with a group of young Syrians. Hundreds of people chanting anti-immigrant slogans took to the streets, vandalized Syrian-run shops and hurled rocks at refugees’ homes. Hassan Hassan, a neighbor, says he isn’t concerned about the violence that erupted or about the calls for Syrians to leave. “I’m not afraid, we suffered too many terrible things, what could happen that is worse than what we (have already) lived through?” he asked.
Coastguards have recovered the dead of 41 migrants off the coast of Tunisia, as the number of people dying trying to reach Europe from Africa continues to rise. According to a senior official, almost 200 people have drowned in the last ten days, reports BBC. Tunisian morgues were running out of room, he said, and officials were struggling to keep up with the spike in attempted crossings. "On Tuesday, we had more than 200 bodies, well beyond the capacity of the hospital, which creates a health problem," said Faouzi Masmoudi, justice official in the port city of Sfax where the central morgue for an area of around a million people is sited. Also Read: At least 24 migrants die in waters off Tunisia over 2 days "There is a problem with large numbers of corpses arriving on the shore. We don't know who they are or what shipwreck they came from and the number is increasing." According the UN's migration agency, a total of roughly 300 individuals died during the previous week and a half, and 824 people have died this year, with those leaving from the Libyan coast are included. Houssem Eddine Jebabli of the national guard told Reuters, the decomposed condition of the recovered bodies indicated that they had been submerged for several days. According to him, the total number of fatalities in such a short period was unprecedented. Tunisia has become a transit point for irregular migrants, primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa, attempting to reach Europe by sea. The number of migrant deaths at sea has varied, with the UN's Missing Migrants Project reporting that 300 migrants died in the Central Mediterranean in the last 10 days alone.
At least 24 migrants trying to make their way to Europe died over two days when their fragile, overloaded boats sank, the prosecutor's office of the coastal port city of Sfax said Saturday. The Tunisian Coast Guard pulled the bodies of four sub-Saharan migrants from the waters off the coast of Sfax on Saturday, while 36 migrants were saved and three others were missing, according to Faouzi Masmoudi, spokesman for the prosecutor's office in Sfax. A day earlier, 20 sub-Saharan migrants drowned when their boat went under about 35 miles (about 56 kilometers) from Sfax, and 17 others, including three children, were saved, Masmoudi said. He added that two of the survivors pulled from the water were reported in critical condition. The numbers of migrants launching from Tunisian coastal waters and aiming to reach the shores of Italy have skyrocketed this year. The Coast Guard intercepted numerous other boats loaded with migrants on Friday and Saturday, Masmoudi said. According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, 132 migrants have died or disappeared in the first three months of this year while trying to reach Europe, reflecting the numbers of attempted and successful crossings. Nearly two weeks ago, the Coast Guard recovered the bodies of 29 migrants in several boat sinkings. The prosecutor's office in Sfax, one of the main regions for migrants to launch their perilous expeditions, is trying to find those who provide desperate migrants with small unseaworthy vessels to make voyages onward to Europe. People fleeing conflict or poverty routinely take boats from Tunisian shores toward Europe, even though the central Mediterranean is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many migrants are from sub-Saharan Africa.
Serbia's customs authorities said Friday they discovered nine migrants hiding among aluminum rolls in a truck headed to Poland from Greece. Customs officers on Serbia's border with North Macedonia spotted the migrants on Wednesday during a scan that showed human silhouettes in the back of the truck, a statement said. The migrants were young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, the statement added. Serbia lies at the heart of the so-called Balkan land route that refugees and migrants use to try to reach Western Europe and start new lives there. Migrants go from Turkey to Greece or Bulgaria, then to North Macedonia and Serbia. From Serbia they move on toward European Union member states Hungary, Croatia or Romania, or they go to Bosnia first and then on to Croatia. Thousands of people fleeing violence or poverty pass through the Balkan region every year. They often face dangers in the hands of people-smugglers who help them cross borders undetected.
“Italy here we come!” cheered the young men, in Urdu and Pashto, as they filmed themselves standing on a boat sailing in bright blue waters. They were among around 180 migrants — Afghans, Pakistanis, Syrians, Iranians, Palestinians, Somalis and others — who left Turkey hoping for a better, or simply safer, life in Europe. Days later, dozens of them were dead. So far, 70 bodies have been recovered from the Feb. 26 shipwreck near the small beach town of Steccato di Cutro, but only 80 survivors have been found, indicating that the death toll was higher. On Sunday, firefighter divers spotted a further body in the Ionian Sea and were working to bring it ashore, state TV said. The tragedy has highlighted the lesser-known migration route from Turkey to Italy. It also brought into focus hardening Italian and European migration policies, which have since 2015 shifted away from search and rescue, prioritizing instead border surveillance. Questions are also being asked of the Italian government about why the coast guard wasn’t deployed until it was too late. Also Read: Migrant boat breaks up off Italian coast, killing nearly 60 Based on court documents, testimony from survivors and relatives and statements by authorities, the AP has reconstructed what is known of the events that led to the shipwreck and the questions left unanswered. ___ THE FATEFUL JOURNEY In the early hours of Wednesday, Feb. 22, the migrants — including dozens of families with small children — boarded a leisure boat on a beach near Izmir following a truck journey from Istanbul and a forest crossing by foot. They set out from the shore. But just three hours into their voyage, the vessel suffered an engine failure. Still in high seas, an old wooden gulet — a traditional Turkish style of boat — arrived as a replacement. The smugglers and their assistants told the migrants to hide below deck as they continued on their journey west. Without life vests or seats, they crammed on the floor, going out for air, or to relieve themselves, only briefly. Survivors said the second boat also had engine problems, stopping several times along the way. Three days later, on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 10:26 p.m. a European Union Border and Coast Guard plane patrolling the Ionian sea spotted a boat heading toward the Italian coast. The agency, known as Frontex, said the vessel “showed no signs of distress” and was navigating at 6 knots, with “good” buoyancy. Frontex sent an email to Italian authorities at 11:03 p.m. reporting one person on the upper deck and possibly more people below, detected by thermal cameras. No lifejackets could be seen. The email also mentioned that a satellite phone call had been made from the boat to Turkey. In response to the Frontex sighting, the case was classified as an “activity of the maritime police”. Italy’s Guardia di Finanza, or financial police, which also has a border and customs role, dispatched two patrols to “intercept the vessel.” As the Turkish boat approached Italy’s Calabrian coast on Saturday evening, some of the migrants on the boat were allowed to message family, to inform them of their imminent arrival and release the 8,000-euro fee that had been agreed upon with the smugglers. The men navigating the boat told the anxious passengers they needed to wait a few more hours for disembarkation, to avoid getting caught, according to survivors’ testimony to investigators. At 3:48 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, the financial police vessels returned to base, without having reached the boat due to bad weather. The police contacted the coast guard to ask if they had any vessels out at sea “in case there was a critical situation” according to communication obtained by the Italian ANSA agency and confirmed by AP. The coast guard replied they did not. “OK, it was just to inform you,” a police officer said before hanging up. Just minutes later, at around 4 a.m., local fishermen on Italy’s southern coast spotted lights in the darkness. People were waving their cell phone flashlights desperately from atop a boat stuck on a sand bank. The suspected smugglers grabbed black tubes, possibly life jackets, and jumped into the water to save themselves, according to survivors. Waves continued smashing into the vessel until it suddenly ripped apart. The sound was similar to that of an explosion, survivors said. People fell into the frigid water, trying to grab onto anything they could. Many could not swim. Italian police arrived on the scene at 4:30 a.m., the same time that the coast guard says it received the first emergency calls related to the boat. It took the coast guard another hour to get there. By then, bodies were already being pulled out of the water with people screaming for help while others attempted to resuscitate the victims. ___ THE YOUNG VICTIMS There were dozens of young children on board the boat. Almost none survived. The body of a 3-year-old was recovered Saturday. Among those who lived was a Syrian father and his eldest child, but his wife and three other children did not. The body of his youngest, age 5, was still missing four days later. Shahida Raza, an athlete from Pakistan, died in the tragedy. She had hoped to reach Europe so that she could eventually bring her disabled son for the medical treatment he could not access back home. One Afghan man drove down from Germany, searching for his 15-year-old nephew who had contacted family saying he was in Italy. But the boy also died before setting foot on land. The uncle asked that his name, and that of his nephew not be published as he had yet to inform the boy’s father. The baby-faced teenager had shared a video with his family during his sea voyage, with apparently good weather. His mother had died two years ago, and with the return of the Taliban to power, the family fled to Iran. The boy later continued to Turkey from where he tried multiple times to cross into the EU. “Europe is the only place where at least you can be respected as a human being,” he said. “Everyone knows that it is 100% dangerous, but they gamble with their lives because they know if they make it they might be able to live.” ___ THE AFTERMATH Prosecutors have launched two investigations — one into the suspected smugglers and another looking at whether there were delays by Italian authorities in responding to the migrant boat. A Turkish man and two Pakistani men, among the 80 survivors, have been detained, suspected of being smugglers or their accomplices. A fourth suspect, a Turkish national, is on the run. Particular attention has been focused on why the coast guard was never sent to check on the boat. A day after the shipwreck, Frontex told AP it had spotted a “heavily overcrowded” boat and reported it to Italian authorities. In a second statement, though, Frontex clarified that only one person had been visible on deck but that its thermal cameras — “and other signs” — indicated there could be more people below. In an interview with AP, retired coast guard admiral Vittorio Alessandro said the coast guard’s boats are made to withstand rough seas and that they should have gone out. “If not to rescue, at least to check whether the boat needed any assistance.” Alessandro added that the photos released by Frontex showed the water level was high, suggesting the boat was heavy. The coast guard said Frontex alerted Italian authorities in charge of “law enforcement,” copying the Italian Coast Guard “for their awareness” only. Frontex said it is up to national authorities to classify events as search and rescue. “The issue is simple in its tragic nature: No emergency communication from Frontex reached our authorities. We were not warned that this boat was in danger of sinking,” Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni said on Saturday. “I wonder if there is anyone in this nation who honestly believes that the government deliberately let over 60 people die, including some children,” she added. Alessandro, however, lamented how over the years the coast guard’s activities — which previously occurred even far out in international waters — have been progressively curtailed by successive governments. “Rescue operations at sea should not be replaced by police operations. Rescue must prevail,” he said. In an interview with AP, Eugenio Ambrosi, chief of staff at the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration, stressed the need for a more proactive search and rescue strategy, on a European level. “We can look and debate whether the (boat) was spotted, not spotted, whether the authorities were called and didn’t respond,” he said. “But we wouldn’t be asking this question if there was a mechanism of search and rescue in the Mediterranean.”
Rescue teams pulled more bodies from the sea on Tuesday, bringing the death toll from Italy’s latest migration tragedy to 65, as prosecutors identified suspected smugglers who allegedly charged 8,000 euros (nearly $8,500) for each person making the “voyage of death” from Turkey to Italy. Authorities delayed a planned viewing of the coffins to allow more time for identification of the bodies, as desperate relatives and friends arrived in the Calabrian city of Crotone in hope of finding their loved ones, some of whom hailed from Afghanistan. “I am looking for my aunt and her three children,” said Aladdin Mohibzada, adding that he drove 25 hours from Germany to reach the makeshift morgue set up at a sports stadium. He said he had ascertained that his aunt and two of the children died, but that a 5-year-old survived and was being sheltered in a center for minors. Also Read: Deadly shipwreck in Italy must trigger action to save lives: UN “We are looking into possibilities to send (the bodies) to Afghanistan, the bodies that are here,” he told The Associated Press outside the morgue. But he complained about a lack of information as authorities scrambled to cope with the disaster. “We are helpless here. We don’t know what we should do.” At least 65 people, including 14 minors, died when their overcrowded wooden boat slammed into shoals 100 meters (yards) off the shore of Cutro and broke apart early Sunday in rough seas. Eighty people survived, but many more are feared dead since survivors indicated the boat had carried about 170 people when it set off last week from Izmir, Turkey. Aid groups at the scene have said many of the passengers hailed from Afghanistan, including entire families, as well as from Pakistan, Syria and Iraq. Rescue teams pulled two bodies from the sea on Tuesday, bringing the toll to 65, police said. Also Read: Rescuers find 60th body off Italy after migrant shipwreck Premier Giorgia Meloni sent a letter to European leaders demanding quick action on the continent’s longstanding migration problem, insisting that migrants must be stopped from risking their lives on dangerous sea crossings. “The point is, the more people who set off, the more people risk dying,” she told RAI state television late Monday. Meloni’s right-wing government, which swept elections last year in part on promises to crack down on migration, has concentrated on complicating efforts by humanitarian boats to make multiple rescues in the central Mediterranean by assigning them ports of disembarkation along Italy’s northern coasts. That means the vessels need more time to return to sea after bringing migrants aboard and taking them safely to shore. But aid groups’ rescue ships don’t normally operate in the area of Sunday’s shipwreck, which occurred off the Calabrian coast in the Ionian Sea. Rather, the aid groups generally operate in the central Mediterranean, rescuing migrants who set off from Libya or Tunisia — not from Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. Crotone prosecutor Giuseppe Capoccia confirmed investigators had identified three suspected smugglers, a Turk and two Pakistani nationals. A second Turk is believed to have escaped or died in the wreck. Italy’s border police said in a statement that organizers of the crossing charged 8,000 euros (around $8,500) each for the “voyage of death.” Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi pushed back at suggestions that the rescue was delayed or affected by government policy discouraging aid groups from staying at sea to rescue migrants. The EU border agency Frontex has said its aircraft spotted the boat off Crotone at 10:26 p.m. Saturday and alerted Italian authorities. Italy sent out two patrol vessels, but they had to turn back because of the poor weather. Piantedosi told a parliamentary committee that the ship ran aground and broke apart at around 5 a.m. Sunday. “There was no delay,” Piantedosi told Corriere della Sera. “Everything possible was done in absolutely prohibitive sea conditions.” The Italian Coast Guard issued a statement on Tuesday saying Frontex had indicated that the migrants’ boat was “navigating normally” and that only one person could be seen above deck. It added that an Italian border police vessel, “already operating in the sea” set out to intercept the migrant boat. “At about 4:30 a.m., some indications by telephone from subjects on land, relative to a boat in danger a few meters from the coast, reached the Coast Guard,″ the statement said. At that point, a Carabinieri police boat which had been alerted by border police “informed the Coast Guard about the shipwreck.” In contrast to similar cases of migrant vessels in distress, “no phone indication ever came from migrants aboard” to the Coast Guard, the statement noted. Not rarely, migrants aboard a vessel in distress contact Alarm Phone, a humanitarian support hotline which relays indications of boats in trouble in the Mediterranean to maritime authorities. When briefing lawmakers, the interior minister cited figures supporting Italy’s long-held frustration that fellow European Union nations don’t honor pledges to accept a share of asylum-seeking migrants who reach Italy. Piantedosi said that while these pledges covered some 8,000 migrant relocations from June last year through this month, only 387 people actually were transferred to other EU nations, with Germany taking in most of them.
Authorities in Bulgaria have detained seven people in connection with an abandoned truck in which 18 people believed to be migrants were found dead, police said Saturday. The bodies were discovered Friday in a secret compartment below a load of lumber in the truck, which was left on a highway not far from Bulgaria's capital, Sofia. Borislav Sarafov, director of Bulgaria's National Investigation Service, confirmed that all the victims had died of suffocation. He called the case the country's deadliest involving smuggled migrants. Police also found 34 survivors in the truck, most of them in very poor physical condition, Bulgarian Health Minister Assen Medzhidiev said. All the passengers originally were from Afghanistan and had entered Bulgaria from Turkey while hoping to reach Western Europe, authorities said. Sarafov said the people who died had perished 10 to 12 hours before the truck was found and that the smugglers had fled the scene after they noticed the deaths. The seven suspects were detained at different locations across Bulgaria. Investigators were working to determine if the truck's driver was among them. Also Read: Bodies of 18 migrants found in abandoned truck in Bulgaria The investigation indicates the suspects belonged to a organized crime ring involved in smuggling migrants from the border with Turkey to the Bulgaria-Serbia border, Sarafov said. Passengers paid 5,000-7,000 euros each, he said. Bulgaria, a Balkan country of 7 million and the poorest member of the European Union, is located on a major route for migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan seeking to enter Europe from Turkey. Very few plan to stay, with most using Bulgaria as a transit corridor on their way westward. Bulgaria has erected a barbed-wire fence along its 259-kilometer (161-mile) border with Turkey, but with the help of local traffickers many migrants still manage to enter.
Police in Bulgaria on Friday discovered an abandoned truck containing the bodies of 18 migrants, who appeared to have suffocated to death. The Interior Ministry said that according to initial information, the truck was carrying about 40 migrants and the survivors were taken to nearby hospitals for emergency treatment. Bulgarian Health Minister Assen Medzhidiev said most of the survivors were in very bad condition. “They have suffered from lack of oxygen, their clothes are wet, they are freezing, and obviously haven’t eaten for days,” Medzhidiev said. The truck was found abandoned on a highway near the capital, Sofia. The driver was not there, but police discovered the passengers in a secret compartment below a load of timber. Authorities did not immediately give the nationalities of the migrants. Bulgarian media reported they all were from Afghanistan. Bulgaria, a Balkan country of 7 million and the poorest member of the European Union, is located on a major route for migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan seeking to enter Europe from Turkey. Very few plan to stay, with most using Bulgaria as a transit corridor on their way westward. Bulgaria has erected a barbed-wire fence along its 259-kilometer (161-mile) border with Turkey, but with the help of local human traffickers many migrants still manage to enter. Read more: 37 Bangladeshi migrants feared dead trying to reach Europe: Govt In Britain in October 2019, police found the bodies of 39 people inside a refrigerated container that had been hauled to England. British police said all the victims, who ranged in age from 15 to 44, came from impoverished villages in Vietnam and were believed to have paid smugglers to take them on a risky journey to better lives abroad. Police said they died of a combination of a lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space. The truck discovered in the town of Grays, east of London, had arrived in England on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.