The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it was extremely alarmed at reports of two dead bodies being found on the Bulgarian border with Serbia last week.
The UNHCR said that it was seeking further details after being alerted about the deaths by the Bulgarian Border Police. The two men, apparently, died of cold while trying to cross into Serbia from Western Bulgaria.
Initial details shared by the Bulgarian authorities indicate locals finding the bodies (one around January 20 and the second on January 23) in the mountainous areas along the border at separate locations in Western Bulgaria, following a very cold spell as temperatures dropped to -21 degree Celsius. The two were found dressed lightly.
The nationalities of both men are unknown and neither of them were known to the authorities. The two men are believed by UNHCR to be part of the refugee, migrant group movements passing through the irregular border points to seek safety in Europe.
“These recent tragic incidents once again highlights the risks that desperate people are forced to take in absence of legal avenues to seek safety in Europe,” said Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Central Europe.
Desperate people continue to arrive in Bulgaria, majority of them through the land borders from Turkey, UNHCR said. About 30 000 are estimated to have arrived last year – a large proportion from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of those attempt to enter Serbia from Bulgaria through the border mountainous region, while trying to continue their journey onwards in Europe.
UNHCR said that it remains concerned about continuing reports of push-backs and allegations of abuse in Bulgaria for those who try to access asylum in the country. Many of those people, reported to be pushed-back, could be in need of international protection, who must have access to asylum in Bulgaria, the refugee agency said.
“Sadly, push-backs, putting up barriers and building fences in the way of a refugee population leaves people with no choice, but to hand themselves to ruthless smugglers and human traffickers,” UNHCR’s Vihé said.
“These concerns have been raised with authorities in Sofia. UNHCR regrets that reports of push-backs and allegations of abuse continue to emerge and emphasises the need for a thorough investigation by authorities,” the agency said.