Migrants killed in Macedonia train horror

2015-04-24 18:48
A group of migrants stand by the rail tracks north of the central Macedonian town of Veles near the site where 14 other migrants were killed by a train. (Petr Stojanovski, AP)

A group of migrants stand by the rail tracks north of the central Macedonian town of Veles near the site where 14 other migrants were killed by a train. (Petr Stojanovski, AP)

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Skopje - At least 14 migrants from Somalia and Afghanistan were killed in central Macedonia when they were hit by an international passenger train, officials said on Friday.

The tragedy is the latest loss of life involving migrants seeking a new life in Europe after around 750 people drowned last Sunday when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean.

The train driver reported seeing several dozen people sitting on or near the track late on Thursday but was unable to stop in time, a local prosecutor said in a statement.

Emergency service workers described a "scene of horror with body parts scattered some 150m along the rail track".

"The driver tried to alert them by horn and stop the train. Many managed to escape but 14 were killed," the statement said, adding that the victims were from Afghanistan and Somalia.

The accident occurred on a mountainous part of the line passing through a canyon near the central town of Veles, so the migrants could not get out of the away.

The bodies were taken to a chapel at the local cemetery in Veles, police said.

Eight migrants were detained, while others fled the scene, police spokesperson Anita Stojkovska said.

In the past six months around a dozen migrants had been killed in similar incidents on the same stretch of line, Stojkovska added.

Walk to Europe

Migrants from impoverished and war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East and central and south Asia walk through Macedonia along the line to reach Serbia as they head north from Greece in the hope of crossing the European Union border into Romania, Hungary and Croatia.

According to the latest report of EU border agency Frontex, Macedonian smugglers charge between €120 and €200 for passage as far as the Serbian border.

Similar networks have sprung up on the Greek-Albanian border, owing to greater security on ferry crossings between Greece and Italy.

Traffickers charge half the price for the land route through the western Balkans into northern Europe, around €1 800 compared to €3 000 for the direct sea or air route, according to Frontex.

Detections of non-EU migrants on the border between Serbia and Hungary rose by 338 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to Frontex.

The latest tragedy in Macedonia comes as EU leaders on Thursday agreed to triple the funding for the bloc's search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean in a bid to curb the soaring number of migrants dying as they seek a better life in Europe.

Already, more than 1 750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year - 30 times more than the same period in 2014.

Read more on:    serbia  |  macedonia  |  migrants

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