Thursday 29 September 2016

Bulgaria jails van driver found smuggling 50 migrants across EU border

Tsvetelia Tsolova

Published 11/09/2015 | 12:17

A group of migrants crosses the border walking on the railway track from Serbia into Hungary, near Roszke. AP Photo
A group of migrants crosses the border walking on the railway track from Serbia into Hungary, near Roszke. AP Photo

A Bulgarian court has sentenced a man to 11 months in jail for helping to bring more than 50 migrants across the EU border with Turkey.

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Bulgarian driver Kalcho Iliev was arrested on Monday after border police officers found some 54 people, including 16 children, from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan packed in a van near the Black Sea town of Ahtopol and close to the border with Turkey.

The regional court in Tsarevo also fined Iliev 2,000 levs (€1020) as part of an agreement he has reached with the prosecutors, the chief prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Prosecutors have indicted over 200 Bulgarians for smuggling activities this year and Interior Minister Rumiana Bachvarova said on Friday that the measures have led to a decrease in attempts to cross its borders illegally.

Bulgaria has detained some 17,000 migrants and asylum seekers since the start of the year, she said.

Last month, Austrian police discovered more than 70 migrants dead in an abandoned refrigerated lorry on a motorway near the town of Parndorf.

Two of those arrested are in connection with the grim find were Bulgarian citizens, according to police.

Tens of thousands of migrants, most of them fleeing war and hardship in Syria, are trying to reach Germany and Hungary through the Balkans from Greece via Bulgaria's non-EU neighbours Macedonia and Serbia.

Signalling its determination to tackle an influx that has overwhelmed its neighbours, Bulgaria is building a fence along its Turkish border and has deployed dozens of police officers, including at its borders with Macedonia and Serbia.

Reuters

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