One person has died and nine have been injured, including one seriously, when a vehicle carrying 10 migrants crashed in northern Greece, police said.
The vehicle, a seven-seater car, had been heading out of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki when it veered off a highway into a ditch, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported on Tuesday (October 19), citing information by Greek police. A passing motorist had apparently alerted emergency services of the incident, which occurred shortly before midnight.
Police said each passenger had paid €150 to be taken to the border, from where they hoped to make their way to Serbia. It wasn't clear if the Balkan country, which is roughly 200 kilometers away from Greece, was their final destination -- or if they were heading to another European country.
According to AP, Greek authorities didn't provide any details on the ages or nationalities of migrants in the vehicle.
Major transit country
For years, Greece has been one of the main routes into the EU for people fleeing poverty and conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. According to AP, most of them use smuggling networks to reach the European Union (EU) in one of two ways: Either from the Turkish coast to the nearby Greek Aegean Islands, or across the short stretch of Turkey's land border with Greece.
Tuesday's accident was the latest in a series of often deadly car crashes involving migrants trying to reach the EU. They highlight the dangers of people smuggling.
- In July, at least 12 people died and many others were injured when their minibus overturned and caught fire in Van province in eastern Turkey.
- In March, a truck carrying Syrian migrants crashed near the Croatia-Bosnia border, leaving four migrants dead and at least 11 injured, some of them seriously.
- In August 2020, at least 10 migrants reportedly died in a road accident in northern Greece.
- In July 2020, 11 migrants sustained serious injuries in a car accident in North Macedonia. It was the third reported migrant car accident in the country in one week.
In a bid to prevent irregular migrants from crossing its borders with Turkey, however, the Greek government has been increasing patrols and beefing up security technology. Among other things, it started using drones and sound cannons as well as an airship. It has also been using well-documented and illegal pushbacks, both on its land and sea border with Turkey.
Since the Taliban's seized power in Afghanistan, moreover, Greece has further bolstered border security, fearing people fleeing the Taliban will attempt to enter Europe.
Last week, AP reported, Greek officials said the country would send an additional 250 officers to the 1,500-strong border force on the frontier with Turkey over the next several months. Moreover it would hire about 800 more border guard personnel to staff airports and regions close to the Turkish border, according to AP.