In Austria, 71 migrants were found dead inside an abandoned truck along the A4 highway. Authorities believe the victims, including four children, suffocated to death hours before they were discovered.
According to reports, the refrigerated food truck left Budapest on Wednesday morning. Later that same evening, the vehicle crossed the border into Austria.
Authorities confirmed the truck was found by a highway maintenance worker. When authorities arrived on scene, they discovered the truck was filled with decomposing bodies.
It is unknown why the truck was abandoned, but it was likely parked on the road for at least 24 hours.
Officials in Austria believe the migrants were dead before they crossed the border. However, it is unclear whether they met with foul play.
As reported by Wall Street Journal, authorities believe “most if not all the individuals were refugees from Syria.” The victims include 58 men, eight women, three young children, and one infant.
Medical examiners are working with local authorities to identify the victims and determine their cause of death. Although it appears the victims suffocated inside the truck, officials said that “other causes can’t completely be ruled out.”
Burgenland province Chief of Police Hans Peter Doskozil confirmed three Bulgarian citizens, including the owner of the truck, were arrested in connection with the Austria migrant deaths.
As reported by Fox News, spokeswoman Viktoria Csiszer-Kovacs confirmed four other suspects were arrested in Budapest.
Chief Doskozil said he believes “the suspects were part of a larger Bulgarian-Hungarian human smuggling ring.”
U.N. spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Austria’s migrant tragedy is not unique. She hopes the incident will help raise awareness about the dangers associated with human smuggling.
“We believe this underscores the ruthlessness of people smugglers… It shows they have absolutely no regard for human life, and that they are only after profit… It also shows the desperation of people seeking protection or a new life in Europe… “
Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director of the European branch of Amnesty International, said European officials need to address the problem to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
“People dying in their dozens – whether crammed into a truck or a ship – en route to seek safety or better lives is a tragic indictment of Europe’s failures to provide alternative routes… Europe has to step up and provide protection to more, share responsibility better and show solidarity to other countries and to those most in need.”
Authorities in Austria said the migrant deaths are still under investigation. However, they are committed to identifying the victims and those responsible for their deaths.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 28, 2015
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