STA, 4 March 2020 - Slovenian police officers discovered at the Dobova border crossing on Tuesday 30 citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan hiding in sealed wagons of a train carrying clay, as they attempted to enter Slovenia.
The train with 20 wagons loaded with clay was coming to Slovenia from Serbia, the Novo Mesto Police Department said on Wednesday.
The foreigners were literally buried in clay as they tried to avoid being detected by border police, which could have been fatal.
The police said the conditions in the sealed wagons were life-threatening, mostly due to the lack of oxygen. What is more the clay on the surface had hardened, creating a dangerous crust.
Spokesperson Alenka Drenik said that the foreigners had been completely covered by clay, and that it was not fully clear how they were able to breathe at all.
She added that foreigners who were trying to enter Slovenia illegally were often found on trains, including on trains transporting clay, but that they were always located on the top of the cargo.
What shocked the police officers and firefighters who participated in the rescue effort the most is that there were 12 children aged between five and fourteen, as well as a woman in a late stage of pregnancy, among the foreigners.
Three persons were provided with medical care in the Brežice hospital after the effort, which also included search and rescue dogs.
Peter Herakovič, the commander of the local fire brigade, told the STA that "small wooden houses" had been put into the wagons, enabling the stowaways get air.
Hardened clay was put on top of these houses, and entrances were blocked by large lumps of clay. "These were trenches of some sort."
According to him, the people inside the wagons were terrified and would not have stayed alive for much longer, perhaps a few hours, had they not been rescued. "Those who were being rescued the last were in a very bad shape."
Herakovič praised the rescue dog team, saying that not even half of the migrants would be saved without them.
According to Drenik, their destination was probably Italy, where the cargo train was destined.
Since they did not ask for asylum, all of them, including the three who had been taken to hospital, have already been handed over to Croatian police officers who perform joint border control at Dobova with Slovenian colleagues.