Austria: Bodies of up to 50 migrants found in abandoned truck near Vienna
Austrian police found the decomposing bodies of up to 50 migrants in an abandoned truck, sparking a cross-border hunt for the people-smugglers responsible for the latest tragedy in Europe’s migrant crisis. The grisly discovery near the Slovakia and Hungary borders came as at least 30 more migrants drowned in the Mediterranean and European leaders again met to try to find ways to handle the tide of people seeking refuge in the European Union. Austrian police said the vehicle found yesterday abandoned in the emergency lane of a motorway had “decomposing body fluids” dropping from it. When they opened it, there was a powerful stench of human decay and the bodies lay piled on top of each other, crammed into a small rectangular space in a sea of tangled limbs. Officers at the scene were unable to determine the exact number of dead, assess people’s gender or determine whether there were any children among them.There were “at least 20, but there could be as many as 40 or 50”, said police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil. The van had the markings of a Slovakian poultry company and Hungarian number plates. More details, including the confirmed number of dead, were expected today. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Austria for a summit with Balkan leaders on the crisis, said she was “shaken” by the “horrible” news. This is a warning to us to tackle this migrants issue quickly and in a European spirit, which means in a spirit of solidarity, and to find solutions,” Merkel said. “Today is a dark day… This tragedy affects us all deeply,” Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told a press conference. Mikl-Leitner vowed to crack down on the people who pocket exorbitant sums to arrange migrants’ passage to Europe, and then often leave them stranded en route. “Human traffickers are criminals,” she said. Hungary said it would join the investigation into the tragedy. Thursday’s grim discovery in Austria brought home how dangerous the land journey for migrants through eastern and southeastern Europe is, after many have already survived a perilous sea crossing. So far this year, over 2,300 men, women and children have drowned in the Mediterranean after rickety boats operated by people-smugglers capsized. Libya’s coastguard said Thursday evening at least 30 more people had died in the shipwreck of a boat carrying around 200 migrants bound for Europe.