Home » Bulgarian Police Cracks Traffickers Blamed for Migrant Deaths

Bulgarian Police Cracks Traffickers Blamed for Migrant Deaths

Seven people have been arrested over the truck found containing the bodies of 18 migrants, as authorities stop another vehicle carrying a different group of Afghans heading towards Serbia.

The Sofia Prosecution on Monday said a criminal trafficking group active for more than a year was responsible for the truck found by police on February 17 carrying 18 dead migrants from Afghanistan, among them a child. The traffickers were transferring two groups of migrants every month through the country, the Prosecution said.

So far, police have detained seven suspects charged with human trafficking. On Sunday, another suspect, allegedly the second driver of the truck, was arrested in Greece near the Greek-Turkish border and will be extradited to Bulgaria.

The drivers will also be held responsible for causing the deaths by negligence. The truck was stopped in Lokarsko village near Sofia.

The 18 who died from suffocation were part of a larger group. The 34 survivors have been placed in hospital and, according to reports, are recovering.

On Sunday, again near Sofia, authorities stopped another vehicle carrying a different group of 40 migrants from Afghanistan heading to Serbia.

Interim Minister of Interior Ivan Demerdzhiev called for more coordination between institutions. Securing the border “is a national cause and issue not a personal project of mine. I expect every Bulgarian institution to approach solving this problem as seriously as possible,” he told media on Monday.

Bulgaria’s interim government has made curbing illegal migration a priority. Various arrests and raids were made in late summer last year.

On December 7, 2022, Demerdzhiev told parliament that 11,000 illegal migrants were detained in 2022, a 67 per cent increase compared to 2021, while altogether 143,477 migrants had been pushed back in comparison to around 40,000 in 2021.

Demerdzhiev dismissed reports of police violence.

But on TV on Sunday, former National Service Border Police director General Valery Grigorov was highly critical of Demerdzhiev. He said the Ministry of Interior had “no resources” to secure the border and incoming migrants can easily pass through “this mock-up of a fence”.

“The Minister and those before his time have no knowledge about the criminal dynamics around the border … and it’s alarming that all the police raids last year had no effect,” said Grigorov.

“The three cabinets of Boyko Borissov [2009-2021], and his habit of putting in power people who happen to play tennis with him, corrupted the whole structure of the Ministry of Interior. We should ask who is actually controlling the border?” he said.

Corruption around the Bulgarian-Turkish border dating to the times of Borissov’s governance was a hot topic in the country last summer.

It coincided with the “There’s Such a People” party leaving the the ruling coalition and moving closer to Borissov’s GERB. This eventually lead to a no-confidence vote in Kiril Petkov’s short-lived reformist government. The ex-PM pointed to the border controversy as a key factor in his ousting.

source: balkaninsight