ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Bulgarian police detained 26 illegal migrants, 18 of whom are from the Kurdistan Region, and three smugglers in a raid north of the European nation’s capital, according to local reports.
In a statement released Wednesday, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior said police carried out an operation near the town of Svoge after receiving information on planned trafficking of illegal immigrants from a house in the Iskar Gorge to the western border of the country into Serbia.
Two Bulgarian nationals and a foreigner with a subsidiary status, along with eight migrants, were initially arrested as they were attempting to head to the border. The eight migrants found in the van claimed to be Kurds from Iraq.
Police searched a cottage that was serving as a shelter during transit and found 18 more migrants, five of them minors, who were waiting to be transported. They also said they were from the Kurdistan Region.
There are multiple instances of people from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq attempting to leave the war-torn country and immigrate to Europe through illegal smuggling routes. Their numbers have dramatically increased over the past few years, namely after the emergence of the Islamic State (IS).
Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria are common stops for traffickers and migrants traveling through Eastern and Central Europe to the wealthier Western nations. Turkey is the main point of passage Kurdish and Iraqi migrants use to enter Europe.
Hundreds of people have died so far in the Aegean Sea after failed attempts to enter Greece illegally. Others have died from below-zero temperatures at the Turkey-Bulgarian border.
According to official data, the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior arrested 2,989 illegal immigrants in 2017 alone.