Afghan migrant ‘watched his friends die’ in Bulgarian truck

Hoping to make it to Germany, 20-year-old Rohullah, from Khogyani district in Nangarhar, left home two months ago and made his way overland to Iran, then Turkey and on to Bulgaria. 

This was all done illegally and after crossing the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, Rohullah and over 50 fellow travelers spent a week in a forest waiting for a truck that would take them closer to Germany – their final destination. 

On Friday morning, February 17, the migrants were packed into a truck and headed for Serbia. But hours into the journey, their trip turned into a nightmare as the container they were in was sealed, and had no ventilation nor oxygen.

Overloaded with migrants

Speaking to Amu TV, Rohullah said that 25 migrants were supposed to have been loaded into the truck “to travel from Bulgaria to Serbia, but the [human] trafficker loaded the truck with more than 25 people. There was no place to sit. The container was closed, and there was no way for oxygen to enter. After spending 10 hours en route, I noticed that many people were not able to talk or to breathe.”

According to Rohullah, the human trafficker abandoned the truck on the side of the road before they reached Serbia.

“My friends were also inside the container with us, they died in front of my eyes. I ripped a tarpaulin cover open with the knife I had and got some air. However, I could not get more oxygen until the police arrived and opened the container door,” he added.

Rohullah said that among the Afghan nationals who were in the truck, 18 people, including a child, died of suffocation.

Rohullah’s name was listed among the victims and only on Sunday was he able to reach his family to inform them that he was still alive. 

Abdul Khaliq, his cousin, said: “We went through a hard time for two nights and one day. We all thought he was dead. Rohullah’s mother and everyone were sad for him. But we got a call from an unknown number. It was the voice of Rohullah. It was like a dream [to hear he was alive].”

Rohullah is now in a refugee camp in Bulgaria and told Amu TV that poverty and unemployment forced him to flee Afghanistan.

Abandoned truck

On Friday, Bulgarian police announced they found the bodies of 18 Afghan refugees, including a child, inside an abandoned truck near the country’s capital Sofia. The Bulgarian police have since arrested four people for their involvement in the incident.

The Bulgarian Ministry of Health said that 34 Afghan refugees, including 5 children, had been rescued and transferred to hospitals in Sofia.

Borislav Sarafov, head of the Bulgarian National Investigation Service, told reporters that some of the refugees had “suffocated” due to lack of oxygen.

He added that these refugees illegally entered Bulgaria from Turkey and hid in the forest for two days, and were then loaded into a truck near the city of Yambol in the southeast of Bulgaria.The Taliban-run foreign ministry also expressed its condolences to the families of the victims, urging Afghans “not to put their lives in danger through illegal migration.”