Seven held in connection with deaths of 18 migrants in lorry in Bulgaria

Seven people have been taken into 24-hour custody in connection with the deaths of 18 irregular migrants in a lorry in Bulgaria, it was announced at a briefing by investigators, police and prosecutors on February 18.

The seven include the alleged leader of a human trafficking organised crime group and most of those taken into custody had various previous convictions, the briefing was told.

The 18 irregular migrants who died in the lorry included a child. The average age of the group was about 20.

The group transported in the lorry had consisted of 52 people, larger than usual, probably out of greed, the briefing was told.

Thirty-four people are being treated in hospital, three in serious condition.

Borislav Sarafov, Deputy Prosecutor-General and head of the National Investigation Service, which on February 17 took over the investigation, said that it was a matter of an organised crime group that received migrants at the border with Turkey – “which is very easily crossed with the help of a simple ladder” – and using lorries, took the migrants to the area close to the Serbian border.

The exact locations of where to pick up the migrants and where to take them were communicated by the leader of the group via the Telegram app.

Sarafov said that the final destinations of the migrants were mainly the UK, Germany and France.

The irregular migrants paid 6000 to 7000 euro for the journey, while the drivers received only 100 euro per migrant transported.

The briefing was told that at about 7.30am on February 17, the two drivers went to pick up the group, who ranged in age from 13-14 years to 33 years.

Shortly after Trajans’ Gate, a loud thump was heard from within the lorry but the driver did not stop.

In the area around the village of Lokorsko, the knocking increased tremendously, the drivers felt that there was a problem, they pulled over, got out to see what was happening and saw that there were disorientated but also dead migrants inside.

At that point, the drivers abandoned the lorry and the migrants and fled to their home towns in the Bourgas district.

Eighteen forensic medical examinations had been carried out, which found that the irregular migrants had died from asphyxiation.

The migrants had been crammed “as if in a can” and the movements of the chest and abdomen were severely restricted, resulting in oxygen deficiency. Death had come slowly and painfully, Sarafov said.

(Photo: Prosecutor’s Office)

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