Spanish police investigate suspected human trafficking route

BARCELONA: Police in eastern Spain opened an investigation into a suspected human trafficking route after discovering two trucks carrying Iraqi refugees in less than a month.

A civil guard spokeswoman told The Associated Press Sunday that an anonymous tip led officers to find eight Iraqis of Kurdish ethnicity, including four children, in the back of a refrigerated truck on a highway near the town of Teruel on Friday.

Two parents with their three children between the ages of five to 10, a mother with her two-year-old son, and a man traveling alone were crammed in the truck's refrigerated trailer.

The spokeswoman, speaking anonymously in line with police policy, said that all eight were in good health despite having been inside the truck's cooling chamber while it was on.

Police placed them in the temporary care of a NGO in Teruel dedicated to helping migrants. The Iraqis could ask Spain for political asylum, the spokeswoman said.

The truck was located a few kilometers (miles) from where police had discovered another truck illegally transporting a Kurdish family of two adults and four children last month.

Police say both trucks were heading toward Britain after departing from the southern Spanish region of Murcia. The police investigation will include how the Iraqis made it to Spain.

The driver of Friday's truck is a 37-year-old Romanian man. The other truck stopped last month was driven by a Bulgarian man. Both were arrested on charges of human trafficking.

In August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in the back of refrigerated truck in Austria. Thousands also have perished at sea or on foot while fleeing the war in Syria and other violent conflicts in an attempt to reach Europe.