Police in Slovenia have rescued 13 Iraqi migrants who were found hidden in a truck, suffering from dehydration and a lack of oxygen.
Authorities in Novo Mesto discovered the group, including two children, on Tuesday during a routine check at the border with Croatia.
Some of the migrants needed medical attention, police said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Police officers and employees of the Financial Administration heard calls for help at the Obrežje border crossing during the inspection of a truck,” police said.
“They immediately broke the screwed barrier of the adapted space and rescued 13 people from it before certain death, including two children.”
Authorities believe migrants had travelled for several hours from Bosnia and through Croatia, crammed in an airless, secret compartment inside the vehicle.
Police say the 13 people were found in a space just 250 cm long and 80 cm wide and would “almost certainly have suffocated without timely intervention” due to the lack of air.
The migrants were “dehydrated and very frightened” and some were already losing consciousness, police added.
“Police officers immediately pulled them out of the truck, started giving them first aid, and called paramedics,” the statement continued.
The driver of the truck, a 52-year-old Bosnian citizen, has been arrested by criminal investigators. A 48-year-old passenger, also from Bosnia and Herzegovina, has also been detained. The truck had been travelling on Bosnian licence plates, police said.
Migrant smuggling is punishable in Slovenia by imprisonment for up to five years and a fine, with greater sentences for criminal organisations. Police proceedings against Iraqi citizens are also still ongoing.
The incident has highlighted the dangers migrants face while trying to reach Western Europe, often with the help of ruthless smugglers. Thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in their countries have been stuck in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans while seeking to move west.