11 ‘mi­grants’ burn to death in car crash

Gulf Times - - EUROPE -

Eleven peo­ple died yes­ter­day in north­ern Greece when a car thought to be car­ry­ing mi­grants crashed head-on with a truck and burst into flames, po­lice said.

Fire­fight­ers re­cov­ered 11 bod­ies from the ve­hi­cle, which had been trav­el­ling to­wards Thes­sa­loniki.

The driver of the truck, which had been head­ing to­wards the town of Kavala, es­caped the un­scathed.

“The peo­ple are charred and hard to iden­tify,” a traf­fic po­lice of­fi­cer told DPA.

Three mi­nors were among those killed in the fiery crash, the cause of which was not ini­tially clear.

Greek po­lice said the car in­volved in the crash had been used for mi­grant smug­gling in the past.

It had failed to stop ear­lier in the day when po­lice of­fi­cers tried to pull it over for a check.

Last June, a mi­grant smug­gling van car­ry­ing 16 peo­ple, mainly from Syria and Iran, crashed near Kavala, killing six peo­ple in­clud­ing three chil­dren.

“We are deeply sad­dened by the dev­as­tat­ing news from an area where thou­sands of refugees have risked their lives and crossed into Greece on ir­reg­u­lar routes,” said Philippe Le­clerc, the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Greece, in a state­ment.

At least 40 deaths have been recorded in the re­gion in 2018, nearly half hav­ing drowned in the fast-flow­ing Evros River.

“Th­ese hor­rific deaths are part of the broader dan­gers faced by peo­ple who find them­selves at the mercy of hu­man smug­glers, who ex­ploit their vul­ner­a­bil­ity”, the UNCHR state­ment added, call­ing for “al­ter­na­tives to th­ese dan­ger­ous cross­ings for peo­ple in need of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion”.

Greece re­ports near daily ar­rests of smug­glers car­ry­ing mi­grants from the Turk­ish bor­der.

More than 12,700 refugees and mi­grants have crossed into Greece’s north­east since the start of the year, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the UNHCR, more than dou­ble the num­ber in 2017.

How­ever, it is dif­fi­cult for mi­grants who want to reach Cen­tral and West­ern Europe by way of Greece, as the so-called Balkan Route north through Al­ba­nia, Mon­tene­gro and Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina has largely been closed off and the bor­ders for­ti­fied.

The burned truck is pic­tured in Sarak­ina, near Kavala, north­ern Greece yes­ter­day. Eleven peo­ple died af­ter a car thought to be car­ry­ing mi­grants crashed head-on with a truck and burst into flames, po­lice said.

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