Van (Wan) on the Iranian border in eastern Turkey is a frequently used route for refugees coming from Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, most of whom are trying to get to the West.
Refugees walk for days in the mountains to reach Van, and pay a lot of money to smugglers to help them get through the border, usually risking their lives in harsh weather conditions, or travelling on dangerous roads. They face risks such as being shot by soldiers at the border, freezing in the mountains, drowning in Lake Van, or dying in tragic traffic accidents.
The latest disaster happened in the Muradiye district of Van on 11 July. At least 12 people lost their lives, six of them by burning, and 20 more were injured as a result of an accident involving a minibus carrying migrants.
Mezopotamya Agency (MA) reports that the accident occurred in the Yumaklı neighbourhood of the district. The minibus came from the direction of Özalp and caught fire when it got to Yumaklı neighbourhood. The driver lost control of the steering and the bus rolled onto the hard shoulder.
Residents called the emergency services and the gendarmes, 112 Emergency Services, Van Disaster and Emergency Directorate (AFAD), National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE), and the Muradiye District Group Supervisor affiliated to the Van Metropolitan Municipality Fire Brigade Department, arrived at the scene. The gendarmes secured the area while firefighters tried to extinguish the fire and medical teams treated the injured refugees.
A total of 12 people lost their lives in the accident, in which six people burnt to death. Twenty of the injured were treated in Van, Muradiye and Erciş.
Journalist Rusen Takva lives in Van and reported that the accident occurred when the vehicle, carrying around 45 refugees, tried to escape from a gendarme checkpoint.
“Most of the refugees who lost their lives were from Afghanistan, and the driver also lost his life during the accident,” he wrote in his social media account.
The refugees who were not injured in the accident fled the scene to avoid being arrested by the gendarmes, Takva said.