Listen to this BosNewsLife News report via BosNewsLife and Vatican Radio
(In a series of reports, Hungary-based BosNewsLife follows what is now Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War Two. Many Christians fleeing conflict zones are also among them. New Europe covers news developments in the (former) Communist nations of Europe and the Soviet Union impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest and border areas
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Four people remain detained after the decomposing bodies of 71 migrants fleeing war and poverty, including eight women and four children, were found in a truck on Austria’s main highway after apparently arriving from neighboring Hungary. Hungarian police said they detained the suspects as part of a wider investigation into human smuggling.
The suspects include an Afghan and three Bulgarians, one of whom owns the truck, in which the victims appeared to have suffocated, according to Hungarian authorities.
Horrified investigators discovered among the victims 59 men, eight women and four children, including a baby girl between 1 and 2. The three other children were boys between the ages eight and ten. Hungarian police said the four foreigners are part of a larger Bulgarian-Hungarian smuggling ring. BosNewsLife noticed many human smugglers operating near Hungary’s border with Serbia. Hungarian police also raided homes and questioned some 20 others.
At least two Hungarian police detectives are in Austria to support their colleagues in the investigation. Hungary has been rushing to build a controversial fence to keep migrants out of the European Union, but that has done little to ease the influx of thousands of refugees.
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said the gruesome cargo discovered in a truck underscores the urgent need for a more a united European policy towards asylum seekers. “The solution is not to increase border controls but to open more legal ways to Europe,” she said in the Austrian town of Eisenstadt, near the highway where authorities discovered the truck. “With legal ways we can protect refugees and the criminals have no business.”
Her remarks appeared remarkable as Austria earlier called for increased border patrols, effectively questioning the EU’s borderless Schengen Zone. “We are very sad about this horrible crime. And we are also very sad that 71 people died. So we have to fight against the criminals, ” she added.
The minister also said Austria remains in shock that scores of people died whole seeking a better life.
The tragedy has also added to fear among migrants still in Hungary which most of them want to leave as they seek a new live in wealthier Western nations. Here in Budapest at the Keleti or East station, volunteers tending to migrants asked people to bring candles and flowers for a tribute there in memory of the 71 victims.
The UN refugee agency has urged authorities to crack down on smugglers and to expand safer legal ways for refugees to reach Europe. In one of the latest actions against smugglers, Hungarian police said they detained21 suspected human traffickers in Budapest alone including 16 Romanians, two Syrians two Hungarians and a Russian citizen.