World

Smuggled Syrian pair hidden in car trunk die in Slovenia crash

AFP-JIJI

Two Syrians, being smuggled in the trunk of a car, died in a crash Thursday, Slovenian police said, as the number of those sneaking into the EU member country have increased.

The accident happened shortly after midnight on the highway from the capital Ljubljana toward Italy when the driver lost control over the vehicle, in which he was smuggling eight Syrians, according to police spokesman Primoz Kadunc.

Three of them were in the trunk and were thrown out after the car hit a fence and flipped over. Two of them died, and the third is still in critical condition, Kadunc told a news conference.

The driver, a 42-year-old Bosnian citizen, has been detained, he said. The Syrians had illegally crossed the border from Croatia hours earlier.

According to police statistics, more than 14,000 people have been intercepted for illegally entering Slovenia from neighboring Croatia in the year’s first 10 months, 72 percent more than in the same period of 2018.

They typically seek to pass through Slovenia to get to other European countries to settle there. Earlier this month, Slovenian police reported a 20-year-old Syrian died of exhaustion and cold after illegally crossing the border from Croatia and getting lost in the forests.

Amid an increase in illegal crossings, some “anti-migrant” vigilante groups have formed to patrol the border. The government has vowed to crack down on this.

Earlier this week, it proposed to amend the bill on public order, setting fines of up to €2,000 ($2,200) for civilians pretending to be or looking like security forces and banning the use of replica arms, except at parades or other registered public events.

Parliament still needs to approve the changes.

Since large numbers of migrants and refugees came to Europe in 2015, 13 of them have died in Slovenia, according to police statistics.

Most of them drowned while attempting to cross the Kolpa river, marking the Schengen border between Slovenia and Croatia, an European Union member that still hasn’t joined the passport-free area.

Those who travel through Slovenia often come up from Greece, which has again become a key point of entry for asylum-seekers to Europe.

According to Greek government figures, there are over 37,000 asylum-seekers on the islands, and hundreds arrive daily, taking advantage of mild weather conditions.