Aus­tria searches freight trains for il­le­gal mi­grants

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Aus­trian po­lice have started search­ing freight trains trav­el­ling from Italy at night to tackle il­le­gal mi­gra­tion and avert fur­ther deaths af­ter two stow­aways died ear­lier this month. A man and a wo­man from Eritrea who had hid­den on a train bring­ing trucks from Italy were crushed to death in Aus­tria’s Ty­rol prov­ince, likely hav­ing lost con­scious­ness due to freez­ing win­ter tem­per­a­tures.

Since early Novem­ber, po­lice have picked up about 90 African mi­grants head­ing for Ger­many on rail­ways in Ty­rol, which are used by most cargo trains go­ing from Italy across the Alps. Aus­trian po­lice found 71 dead mi­grants locked into a lorry in August 2015, and many of­fi­cials fear another dis­as­ter. “Il­le­gal mi­grants al­ways try to scout out new ways to get north. We have re­acted to this phe­nom­e­non of freight train stow­aways and in­ten­si­fied con­trols” said Man­fred Dum­mer from Ty­rol po­lice about the new search regime that started this week.

Po­lice stop and search all goods trains com­ing from Italy be­tween 2200-0600 lo­cal time in the shad­ows of the ski slopes of the sleepy border town of Steinach, about 80 kilo­me­ters closer to Italy than Wo­ergl, where the two mi­grants died. “Ev­ery kilo­me­ter that they’re not on the train at these tem­per­a­tures is vi­tal,” Dum­mer said. With tem­per­a­tures of mi­nus 4 de­grees Cel­sius overnight, about 10 po­lice­men and rail se­cu­rity of­fi­cers in Steinach train sta­tion care­fully searched about 10 freight trains, some of which were about 600 me­ters long.

Aus­tria cham­pi­oned the de facto clos­ing this spring of the Balkan route which hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple flee­ing war, vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion in the Mid­dle East and Afghanistan used to reach west­ern Europe last year. Coun­tries such as Mace­do­nia and Hun­gary have strongly tight­ened con­trols of road traf­fic and green border re­gions or have erected fences.

This, and a deal the Euro­pean Union reached with Turkey to stem the flow, have re­sulted in more and more peo­ple re­sort­ing to trav­el­ling across the Mediter­ranean in flimsy boats to reach Italy. Most of them want to go north to Aus­tria, Ger­many or Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries-some as stow­aways on freight trains.

Ger­ald Tatzgern, who heads the anti-hu­man traf­fick­ing unit at the In­te­rior Min­istry, says po­lice pick up about 100 to 150 il­le­gal im­mi­grants a day in Aus­tria. The ma­jor­ity of those are found on pas­sen­ger and freight trains. Tatzgern sin­gled out Bul­garia and Ser­bia as hubs for traf­fick­ers smug­gling Afghans be­tween cargo on trains, some­times in groups of up to 30 peo­ple in one wagon.

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