From file: Joint patrols on the Italy-Slovenia border to stem the flow of illegal arrivals in Friuli Venezia Giulia | Photo: Cristiana Missori/ANSA
From file: Joint patrols on the Italy-Slovenia border to stem the flow of illegal arrivals in Friuli Venezia Giulia | Photo: Cristiana Missori/ANSA

In an apparent case of human smuggling, Slovenian police have discovered 13 migrants hidden in a cargo truck. Migrants are regularly discovered crammed into trucks and cars heading through the Balkans en route to western Europe.

Police in the southeastern Slovenian city of Novo Mesto said on Wednesday (February 24) that the migrants from Iraq, including two children, were "suffering from dehydration and a lack of oxygen," news agency Associated Press (AP) reported.

Some of the migrants needed medical attention after they were found on Tuesday during a routine check at the border with Croatia, according to the police.

The police statement said that the group had traveled for several hours from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is not a EU member, and then through Croatia, which is a EU member state like Slovenia. According to AP, the migrants were "crammed in an airless, secret compartment inside a truck bearing Bosnian license plates."

On the verge of consciousness

Not only were the migrants dehydrated and frightened, some of them were already reportedly beginning to lose consciousness, AP reported. "They were given first aid on the spot while two people had to be taken to a nearby hospital."

According to the Slovenian police statement, the children in the truck were 11 and six years old. Police have detained the Bosnian truck driver and another person, who was also in the vehicle.

In late January, a Slovenian court had sentenced two Italian citizens in a similar case to more than two years in prison on migrant trafficking charges. Police had found six migrants hidden in their car at the border between Croatia and Slovenia in September.

Series of truck discoveries

The discovery of the 13 migrants highlights dangers migrants face while trying to reach western Europe -- often with the help of ruthless smugglers. Thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in their countries have been stuck in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans while seeking to move further west.

Smugglers are frequently arrested both inside and outside the EU for trying to bring migrants into western Europe in cars and trucks:

  • Just last week, Italian police arrested a total of five alleged people smugglers in two separate cases.
  • Earlier this month, Italian authorities reported more cases of Afghan minors entering the country hidden inside cargo trucks coming in from the Balkans.
  • In late January, the ringleaders of a human smuggling group were handed prison terms for their involvement in a plot that led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants. Their bodies were found in a truck outside London in 2019.
  • Last October, 15 men were arrested for suspected migrant smuggling in North Macedonia in two separate cases.
  • In mid-August, nearly 150 people were found squeezed into two separate trucks in North Macedonia.
  • Last July, a total of 567 migrants trying to transit North Macedonia without papers were detained by police. Police also arrested nine people suspected of migrant smuggling, including three Serbian nationals.

with AP


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