At least 18 illegal migrants have been found dead inside a timber truck in Bulgaria. The migrants, who are Afghans, are said to have died of suffocation after trying to enter the country through the back door.
“There has been a lack of oxygen to those who were locked in this truck. They were freezing, wet, and they have not eaten for several days,” Asen Medzhidiev, Bulgarian minister of health, stated.
The country’s ministry of interior said the truck, originally designed to carry timbers, had a specially-made secret compartment which the migrants entered.
“According to initial information, the truck was transporting illegal migrants – a total of about 40 people, who were hiding in a hidden place under transported timber,” the Bulgarian Interior ministry said on Friday, adding that the truck was abandoned in Lokorsko, a village not far from Sofia.
Bulgarian news agency, BTA, reported that fourteen survivors of the truck incident were rushed to the hospital, and eight of them were in critical condition. Those rushed to the hospital include five children.
Minister of Health Asen Medzhidiev said one of the survivors had serious psychomotor agitation, and it took the efforts of four people to calm him down. Psychomotor agitation means a condition of restlessness and anxiety that results in repetitive and unintentional movements.
Other suspects are currently in police custody as the National Investigative Service has taken up the investigation of the incident.
Four suspects arrested
Following the death of 18 Afghans in Bulgaria, four suspects in the crime have been arrested. Deputy Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov said the suspects will remain the custody for 24 hours to prove their innocence. Failure to prove their non-involvement in the crime means they will be charged. He confirmed that the incident was connected to smuggling and human trafficking.
However, it is unclear if the driver of the truck was among the four people arrested in connection with the unfortunate deaths, as earlier reports suggested that he evaded arrest, and his identity remains unknown. The ministry of interior said officials are working hard to identify and arrest him.
The man behind the crime is identified
Following the incident, Ivan Demerdzhiev, the caretaker minister of interior, said the main culprit had been identified. Although his name was not mentioned, the minister said the suspect was a known human smuggler who has been convicted and is facing charges bordering on the same crime. He added that the caretaker government had proposed tougher punishments for smuggling activities but was waiting for Parliament to approve the proposal.
“The police always do their job in these cases, and they have done it now. It is high time that Parliament also did its job and adopted what is requested as an instrument to fight human smuggling,” Ivan Demerdzhiev said.
Why illegal migrants love Bulgaria
Bulgaria is one of the smallest countries in the European Union and also one of the poorest in the bloc. What, then, do illegal migrants find attractive about the Balkan country? It is located in on a major route which allows people in the Middle East and Afghanistan to enter Europe. In most cases, most migrants have no intention of staying in Bulgaria. Most of them use Bulgaria as a route to reach other European countries.
Following the frequent crossing of the country by these migrants, the Bulgarian government erected a barbed-wire fence on its border with Turkey. However, with the help of some local Bulgarians, many migrants manage to enter the country. Not even the tough laws on human smugglers could prevent them.
Friday’s incident was not the first involving illegal migrants in European countries in recent times. In 2015, 71 migrants were found dead beside an Austrian motorway. Three Bulgarian truck drivers were held responsible and were charged with their deaths.