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News 17 Jul 17

Funds Raised to Rebury Refugees Killed in Bulgaria

An online campaign seeks to raise enough money to bring home the bodies of Afghan migrants who died in a car crash on a Bulgarian highway on June 4.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The van after the car crash on June 4. Photo: Bulgarian Ministry of Interior press service.

An online fundraising campaign, posted on the goFundme platform, has collected over 9000 pounds out of 15,000 needed to cover the repatriation of the bodies of six Afghan citizens who lost their lives in a car crash in June near the southern Bulgarian city of Pazardjik.

The organizers of the campaign say the bodies have remained in the hospital in Pazardjik for over a month, as they have not yet been reclaimed or repatriated to Afghanistan.

“Their families are too poor - unable to pay for the cargo to repatriate those dead bodies to Afghanistan,” the fundraisers say.

Nine migrants – three Pakistanis and six Afghans – and their 16-year-old Bulgarian driver died in an accident after the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree tree on the highway connecting Sofia with Burgas on the Black Sea. Eight other migrants were injured.

The prosecution in Pazardjik has pressed charges against two Bulgarians and one Afghan citizen suspected of smuggling the migrants.

Vassil Valchev, director of Pazardjik hospital, confirmed to BIRN that the bodies of the six Afghan migrants remain in a mortuary refrigerator.

The bodies of the Pakistani citizens have been recognized and will be transported to Islamabad next Tuesday with the assistance of the Pakistan embassy.

Valchev added that one of the Afghans has also been recognized and his body is expected to be taken from the hospital.

Bodies of foreign citizens have to be identified before being transported back home to be buried by their families. The expenses for the transportation are covered either by the diplomatic representation of the country of origin of the deceased, or by the family.

BIRN asked the Afghan embassy in Sofia to clarify whether it had taken steps to identify and return the bodies of the victims to Afghanistan, but received no answer by the time of publication.

The June car crash is not the only such incident in which migrants recently lost their lives while trying to cross illegally through Bulgaria.

In November 2014, the bodies of four men were found near the village of Kireevo in south-western Bulgaria near the border with Serbia.

In January 2016, border guards found two other bodies of young migrants near Kalotina at the Bulgarian-Serbian Border, Club Z reported.

In September 2016, two Iraqi migrants - a young man and a boy, drowned while attempting to cross the Danube to Romania by boat. Earlier in 2016, woman and a teenage girl were found frozen to death near the Bulgarian border with Turkey.

A teenage Afghan boy was shot to dead by a Bulgarian border policeman in November 2015, who was later cleared of any charges.

The most shocking case involving Bulgarians was the death of 71 migrants who were found suffocated in an abandoned lorry in Austria in 2015.

The trial of 11 men connected to the horrific deaths started on June 21 in Kecskemet, Hungary. Four men – three Bulgarians and one Afghan – have been charged with “homicide with particular cruelty”, DW reported. 

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