18 Indian refugees feared drowned in the Morava River
Smuggling people across borders can often lead to tragedy. This was the case for a group of up to 20 Indian citizens that tried to travel to the West on Monday night, by crossing across Morava River, which separates the Czech Republic from Slovakia. 18 of them are believed drowned and only 2 have been rescued. Radio Prague´s Lucie Krupickova has been following the story.
"In the dark on Monday night, a border police guard heard screams and then saw bodies floating in the river. But before the police could take any action, the unfortunates were gone." This is how Slovak Interior Ministry spokesman Peter Pleva described the situation. Earlier I spoke to Pavel Tychtl, the director of the Czech Organisation for Aid to Refugees and asked him how many refugees take this route through the Morava River:
"That's something nobody knows, I guess. What we can only say is that, unfortunately, because of many legal restrictions which were imposed on refugees in last years, the illegal route what you can call, is taken by many refugees. This is not the first accident and unfortunately not the last accident. Because we know that in the last year according to The United, which is an NGO based in the Netherlands, there were several hundred deaths of people who tried to reach European countries."
As Mr. Tychtl said, no statistics have been compiled by the Czech Interior Ministry on the number of deaths among refugees. He added that the number is certainly much higher than official estimates. But can anything be done to prevent refugees from dying when they try to cross the border:
"I think police can't do much really. This is a problem which has to be dealt on the higher levels, so called. So what you would need is a legal structure which allows refugees to reach the countries, where they seek asylum, in a legal way. Unfortunately as I said before, at the moment it seems that this is not happening."
Despite such a high number of deaths, there has been little media coverage of the incident in the Czech Republic. Apart from a few television reports, only two newspapers gave the story any coverage at all. But Pavel Tychtl from the Organisation for Aid to Refugees does not find this too surprising:
"At the beginning of 90´s the number of refugees in the Czech Republic was relatively small. And also the knowledge about refugees was on a very low level. And I thing that still is the same. I think that people are not, or the journalists are not that well informed about the refugees and the problems related to refugees. The other thing also is, that seems to me, that the Czech media don´t really pay much attention to a certain issue. They don´t follow a certain issue in a very detailed manner. So I am not surprised they are not reporting much about this accident."