NEWS 08 Feb 16

Two Female Refugees Freeze to Death in Bulgaria

A woman and a teenage girl have been found dead near the Bulgarian border with Turkey and another 15 refugees have been hospitalised with hypothermia after being rescued in the mountains. 

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia

Refugees

Photo: Beta

The Bulgarian police authorities have started pre-trial proceedings after the two female refugees who were found frozen to death near the south-eastern town of Malko Tarnovo at the weekend, the border police told BIRN on Monday.

The two deceased refugees, a woman in her thirties and a girl aged around 14, were part of a larger group of 19 people, including 11 children, who were rescued by Bulgarian border patrols on Saturday evening in the Strandzha mountain range, where snow cover had reached 50 centimetres.

They were wet and freezing after entering Bulgaria from Turkey, crossing the River Deliiska.

“The rescued migrants identify themselves as Iraqi citizens, but they had no documents, so their nationality will be further investigated after they are released from hospital,” said Lora Lubenova, a spokeswoman for the Bulgarian border police.

Fifteen of the survivors, 11 children and four adults, were hospitalised in the south-eastern city of Burgas.

Two of the adults - a man aged 35 and a woman in her forties - were in a coma when they arrived at the hospital, but all are now stable, the hospital said on Sunday.

According to the director of the border police, Antony Angelov, the migrants came from four families. The deceased woman was a mother of three of the children and the teenager who died was a member of one of the other families, Angelov told Bulgarian National Television on Monday.

Since 2014, Bulgaria has been constructing a 132-kilometre-long barbed-wire fence along its land border with Turkey to prevent refugees and migrants from entering the country illegally.

But people fleeing the wars and poverty in the Middle East continue crossing into Bulgaria on their way to Western Europe, often taking dangerous routes in order to remain unnoticed.

The number of asylum claims in Bulgaria this year so far reached 1,862 by January 27, when the State Agency for Refugees announced its latest statistics.

“We register attempts at illegal crossing along the whole border with Turkey, more often at locations where there is no border installation,” Lubenova explained.

The two female refugees’ deaths were not the first such tragedy 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 has reported.

The Turkish Anadolu Agency reported on February 6 meanwhile that a group of 31 Syrians, including 13 children, was rescued by villagers and security forces in a village near Edirne in Northern Turkey.

The refugees told the troops who found them that they had managed to enter Bulgaria, but Bulgarian border guards intercepted them and sent them back to Turkey on foot.

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