The bodies of 18 Afghan migrants who died while being smuggled into Bulgaria have been returned to Kabul
A spokesman for the Taliban government’s foreign ministry said the bodies of 18 Afghan migrants who died while being smuggled into Bulgaria had been repatriated.
Kabul, Afghanistan — The bodies of 18 Afghan migrants who died while being smuggled into Bulgaria were brought back to the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Taliban government’s foreign ministry said.
Bulgarian authorities discovered the bodies in a secret compartment under a load of wood in the back of a truck left on a highway not far from the capital, Sofia, in February.
They confirmed that all 18 had died of suffocation. Bulgarian authorities have arrested seven people in connection with the deaths. The director of Bulgaria’s National Investigation Service described the case as the country’s deadliest involving migrants.
Borislav Sarafov, the director, said the migrants were “pressed together like a tin can”, causing their slow and painful deaths. He described it as “an extraordinary human tragedy”.
The ministry’s deputy spokesman in Kabul, Zia Ahmad Takal, said his government had paid for the repatriation of the bodies. He blamed the Bulgarian judicial process for their late return and the “cruel banking restrictions” imposed on Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the country.
Takal said the bodies had been returned to families and urged Afghans not to risk their lives on illegal smuggling routes.
34 other Afghan migrants in the same truck survived the ordeal, but they were dehydrated and suffered from frostbite. They had entered Bulgaria from Turkey, hoping to reach Western Europe.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, they have imposed measures consistent with their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
They barred women from public spaces and prohibited the education of girls beyond grade six. The international community has denounced the actions of the Taliban, leading to further isolation of the country as it faces an economic crisis and the threat of drought.