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The New Arab

Iraqi refugees found frozen to death in Europe

Millions of refugees fled to Europe in 2015 [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 January, 2017

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Villagers in Bulgaria found the bodies of two Iraqi refugees who had fallen victim to the freezing temperatures that have gripped the Balkans

Two Iraqi men were found frozen to death in a mountainous forest region in south-eastern Bulgaria following fierce blizzards, police said on Friday.

The two men, aged 28 and 35, were found by villagers in the Strandzha, a massif that straddles the Bulgarian-Turkish border, police in the regional capital of Burgas said.

The Strandzha is the only part of the 200-kilometre (120-mile) frontier that has not been closed off by barbed-wire fencing - a measure aimed at discouraging migrants from crossing into EU member Bulgaria .

Human Rights Watch said some 2,000 asylum seekers and migrants are sleeping rough in the Serbian capital Belgrade, where temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees centigrade at night.

Some are living in Hungary's "transit zones" on the Serbian border, or "inside a tattered government-run tent camp in Hungary without enough aid", which as also been hit by the sub-zero temperatures.

Authorities across the region failed to ease the frosty situation as they continued to "prevent humanitarian organisations from aiding those in need", HRW alleged.

 "The Serbian government banned aid organisations from helping asylum seekers and migrants sleeping rough, HRW's eastern Europe and western Balkans researcher, Lydia Gall wrote.

"The Serbian government ignored several requests by aid groups in November and December, including from Medecins Sans Frontieres, to build temporary and winterised camps," Gall added.

On Monday, a Somali woman was found dead in the same region after suffering from the cold conditions.

The influx of more than one million asylum seekers - mostly from war-torn Syria - into the EU in 2015 triggered the worst refugee and migrant crisis on the continent since World War II.

But the number crossing to European shores on rickety boats plunged in 2016 by almost two thirds to 364,000, EU border agency Frontex said on Friday.

Frontex pointed to an EU border deal with Turkey, which came into effect in March, as having paved the way to a massive decline in the number arriving in Greece.

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