A pickup-truck carrying migrants in northeastern Greece crashed on Saturday killing one of the passengers and injuring at least 16 others, police say. The driver had been attempting to evade a police checkpoint.
The accident happened in the Thrace region in the northeast of the country on Saturday (June 11), Greek police said. The truck was heading west from the Turkish-Greek border when it encountered a police checkpoint on the main Egnatia Odos highway. Instead of stopping, the driver, reported to be of Georgian nationality, sped through and the vehicle slammed into a fence, according to news agency Associated Press (AP). The truck overturned several times before coming to a stop, the German agency dpa reports.
The driver, who was among those hurt in the accident, tried to escape but was caught, AP reports. The 16 injured migrants were reportedly taken to nearby hospitals. They claimed to by Syrians, police said. The identity of the deceased person was not known.
Police also stopped a vehicle carrying four migrants and arrested the driver. Three people in another car, who were said to be accompanying the other two vehicles, were also arrested.
Trucks, cars and minibuses traveling along the Greek east-west motorway are often stopped and checked by police. The route from the Evros River Greek-Turkish border region to western Greece is said to be a popular smuggling route.
Dpa reports that according to traffic police, smugglers usually use underage drivers who are not severely punished.
The migrants try to get to Central and Western Europe or Italy with the help of the smugglers without registering in Greece. Migrants say they pay between €1,050 and €7,0350 for the journey, according to dpa.
Vehicle accidents common
The accident at the weekend is the second on the Egnatia highway this month. On June 4, two people died and twelve others were injured in a vehicle accident at the junction of Xanthi-Kavala, between the Turkish border and Thessaloniki.
The car had been approaching a police checkpoint when the driver, a 27-year-old man from Pakistan, sped through and was chased for 50 kilometers before the car slammed into a barrier. According to AP, the other man who died was also a Pakistani national. Among those injured were nine Pakistanis and three Afghans. The worst injuries were suffered by people who had been trying to hide in the boot of the car.
Read more: Car crash in Greece leaves 1 migrant dead, 9 injured
The Missing Migrants Project of the UN migration agency IOM, which tracks deaths and disappearances of migrants, says that transport accidents are often the cause of death during migration in Europe.
Asphyxiation during transit is also common, according to the IOM. One of the worst incidents happened in 2015, when 70 migrants died in the back of a truck as they were traveling through Austria.
Migrants traveling on foot are also sometimes struck by trucks, cars, or trains. On April 2, two migrants died and one was seriously injured when they were hit by a truck on the A10 highway between Genoa and Ventimiglia, in Italy. The victims were Sri Lankan nationals.
There has also been a series of fatal accidents involving trains or lorries in Calais, northeastern France. On May 29 a man 'of African origin' was struck and killed by a freight train, becoming the fifth migrant to have died in a vehicle-related accident in the region since November, 2021.