Merkel says Austrian migrant tragedy a ‘warning’

Merkel says Austrian migrant tragedy a ‘warning’

VIENNA – Agence Frence-Presse
Merkel says Austrian migrant tragedy a ‘warning’

AFP photo

The “horrible” Aug. 27 discovery of between 20 and 50 dead migrants inside a truck in Austria is a warning to Europe to tackle its migrant crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

“We were all shaken by the horrible news that up to 50 people lost their lives because they were in a situation where people-smugglers did not care about their lives,” Merkel said at a summit of western Balkan leaders in Vienna.     

“This is despite the fact that these people were seeking safety and protection but came to such as tragic end,” she said.

“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,” she told delegates at the summit which has been dominated by the migrant crisis.     

Austrian police discovered the bodies in a lorry with Hungarian number plates parked by the side of a motorway near the Slovakian and Hungarian borders.

They said there may be as many as 50 bodies inside, but the cause of death was not immediately clear. The lorry is believed to have been there since Aug. 26.

The truck was towed away on Aug. 27 in the afternoon without the corpses being unloaded, an AFP photographer at the scene near Parndorf in Burgenland said.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said it “showed once again how necessary it is to save the lives of people by fighting criminality and people-smuggling.”  

Western Balkan countries are facing “huge challenges” handling tens of thousands of migrants trying to get to the EU, Merkel said.

“It is our responsibility to help them.” 

At least 55 dead bodies were discovered Aug. 26 on three overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean, according to the Italian coastguard, on a day that saw some 3,000 others rescued in the sea.

Almost all of the victims were found in the hold of a boat found drifting off the Libyan coast by a Swedish vessel. Media reports said they had choked to death on gas fumes.

The macabre discoveries add to a toll of more than 2,300 people who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2015, already exceeding the death toll for the whole of 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.

In Hungary, another country overwhelmed by record numbers arriving, there were ugly scenes in the border town of Roszke as police fired tear gas at people who were trying to leave a refugee processing center after refusing to be fingerprinted.    

Hungarian lawmakers will vote next week on whether to send troops to stem the influx, as more than 2,500 people crossed into the EU country from its southern frontier with Serbia, days before the completion of the razor-wire fence.