12 February 2016

Refugees are dying everyday while trying to reach Europe by boat. According to UNHCR, over 400 people lost their lives while undertaking these dangerous journeys since the beginning of the year. However, refugees also loose their lives fleeing by land while trying to reach safety.

This week, two women were found dead on the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, near the city of Malko, Tarnovo. They were part of a group of 19, among which 11 were children. The rest of the group, were rescued, received medical care but remain in an extremely critical condition.

More and more people are choosing this route to reach Europe as many cannot afford to pay to go to Greece by boat and virtually no legal routes exist to the EU. As this border is off the beaten track on the ‘Balkan route’, it is less controlled, but less humanitarian aid is available. In this region temperatures are very low, winds are strong and has heavy snowfall, this week it reached 50 centimetres. The Bulgarian authorities built a barbed-wire fence along this stretch of land, so refugees sometimes have to swim across a river. With such low temperatures, they risk hypothermia as they cannot get properly warm and dry after such a crossing. These deaths are not the first of its kind, earlier this year two men were found dead on the border between Bulgaria and Serbia.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 12 February 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.