Another tragedy has hit refugees in eastern Turkey as a bus carrying people from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh overturned and caught fire on Sunday evening in Van, killing at least 12 and injuring 26 others, Turkish media reported.
According to NTV, the bus was filled beyond capacity. It went off a cliff after the driver lost control and caught fire on impact. The Van Governor’s Office said investigations were underway and that the driver, identified as S.A., had been detained.
Home to some 4 million refugees, Turkey is a hot spot for migration flows as it shares a border with several European countries. Van province is located near Turkey’s border with Iran and has been a major transit route for migrants coming from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has given added impetus to young men trying the mountainous route, The Associated Press said, citing Metin Çorabatır, president of the Ankara-based Center for Asylum and Migration Studies.
Several accidents have occurred in Van and neighboring provinces resulting in the death of undocumented migrants.
Last year a boat carrying asylum seekers sank in Lake Van, causing the death of 100 people. The year before, seven asylum seekers died on the same route. Turkish security forces have many checkpoints on the roads connecting Van to neighboring provinces. As a result, migrants try to circumvent the checkpoints by crossing the lake by boat.
Two refugees were killed and 12 others were injured in southeastern Siirt province in June in crossfire between security forces and migrant smugglers.
Mahmut Kaçan from the Van Bar Association said at a press briefing last year that authorities had failed to take any steps or had turned a blind eye to migrant smugglers, thus paving the way for tragedy.