More than 20 mi­grants found dead in Aus­tria


The bod­ies of be­tween 20 and 50 mi­grants have been found in a truck on a high­way in Aus­tria, po­lice said Thurs­day, the latest tragedy in­volv­ing peo­ple des­per­ately try­ing to reach Europe.

“To­day is a dark day ... This tragedy af­fects us all deeply,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Jo­hanna Mik­lLeit­ner said at a press con­fer­ence.

The ve­hi­cle, bear­ing Hun­gar­ian num­ber plates, was found in an emer­gency lane off the high­way near the bor­der with Hungary, po­lice spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil said along­side the min­is­ter.

Hungary said the dead ap­peared to be vic­tims of a peo­ple­traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tion and that it would join the Aus­trian in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the tragedy.

A spokesman for Hun­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban said the driver was Ro­ma­nian, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion re­ceived from Aus­trian po­lice.

It is thought that the truck — bear­ing the mark­ings of Slo­vakian poul­try firm Hyza — had been parked in the area since Wed­nes­day.

“Hu­man traf­fick­ers are crim­i­nals. Any­one still think­ing that they’re kind helpers can­not be helped,” the min­is­ter said.

Foren­sics teams at the scene said it would take sev­eral days to se­cure ev­i­dence.

“We can­not con­firm yet how they died,” Doskozil added.

‘Zero tol­er­ance’

Mikl-Leitner an­nounced that Aus­tria would tighten its bor­der con­trols and in­ten­sify checks on in­ter­na­tional trains in the com­ing weeks.

She also called on the other 27 mem­ber states of the Euro­pean Union to show “zero tol­er­ance” for peo­ple smug­glers.

The grue­some find comes as Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and Balkan lead­ers were meet­ing in Vi­enna to dis­cuss how to tackle to­gether the big­gest mi­gra­tion cri­sis to hit Europe since World War II.

“We were all shaken by the hor­ri­ble news that up to 50 peo­ple died ... these were peo­ple com­ing to seek safety,” Merkel said in Vi­enna.

“This is a warn­ing to work to re­solve this prob­lem and show sol­i­dar­ity.”

Or­ban’s chief of staff Janos Lazar said Aus­trian and Hun­gar­ian po­lice “will work closely to­gether to take the nec­es­sary steps to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened, and ap­pre­hend those re­spon­si­ble.”

“It ap­pears that the vic­tims were illegal mi­grants in a hu­man traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tion.”

The Aus­trian tragedy comes af­ter at least 55 dead bod­ies were dis­cov­ered Wed­nes­day on three over­crowded mi­grant boats in the Mediter­ranean.

More than 2,300 mi­grants have died at sea this year dur­ing at­tempts to reach Europe, al­most in­vari­ably on over­crowded boats char­tered by peo­ple smug­glers

“Just another ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent, il­lus­trat­ing the ur­gent need for quick and de­ter­mined com­mon ac­tion,” tweeted the EU com­mis­sioner for en­large­ment Johannes Hahn af­ter the Aus­trian find.

This year has seen record num­bers of peo­ple try­ing to reach the EU by sea and land as they flee con­flicts in Africa, Asia and the Mid­dle East.

In Aus­tria, the num­ber of asy­lum re­quests rose above 28,300 be­tween Jan­uary and June alone — as many as for the whole of 2014 — and of­fi­cials ex­pect the to­tal to reach 80,000 this year.

“Aus­tria has more mi­grants than Italy and Greece com­bined ... so we shouldn’t pre­tend that only Italy and Greece are af­fected,” Aus­trian For­eign Min­is­ter Se­bas­tian Kurz said ahead of the sum­mit.


Foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors work as po­lice ve­hi­cles are parked at the back of a truck which was parked along a high­way near Neusiedl am See, Aus­tria, Thurs­day, Aug. 27.

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