UN agencies shocked after 18 Afghans die in abandoned lorry near Sofia

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are shocked and deeply saddened after 18 people – reportedly Afghans – including one child, were discovered dead on February 17 in an abandoned lorry near Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, the agencies said in a media statement.

According to initial information from Bulgarian authorities, the lorry was carrying 52 people including children. Survivors have been taken to hospitals in Sofia with some reported in critical care.

They were discovered in a desperate condition, lacking oxygen, wet, freezing, and hungry.

The UN agencies commend the swift actions of the relevant authorities, including the hospitals that have provided support and care for survivors, the statement said.

UNICEF, IOM, and UNHCR stand ready to assist the authorities and survivors and trust those responsible for this heinous crime will be swiftly brought to justice.

According to IOM’s Missing Migrants project, hundreds of people have died on migration routes in Europe since 2014.

The direct causes of death during migration in Europe are often linked to hazardous transport, including accidents involving trains and other vehicles. Asphyxiation during transit is also unfortunately common. Those who travel by foot are also sometimes hit and killed by cars, lorries, or trains.

Deaths linked to exposure and lack of access to adequate shelter, medicine, and other necessities are also sadly common, particularly on routes which go through remote regions.

IOM and UNHCR continue to call for concrete action to reduce loss of life along migratory routes around the world by encouraging regional cooperation to protect the rights and lives of people on the move, while addressing the root causes of displacement and unsafe or irregular migration in line with the objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder of the urgent need to protect all persons on the move, especially the most vulnerable such as children,” the statement said.

(Photo: Prosecutor’s Office)

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