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A Grisly Discovery In Austria: Bodies Of Dozens Of Migrants In A Truck


A grisly discovery today in Austria - a truck was parked on the side of the highway, and inside - dozens of corpses. The people in the vehicle are presumed to have been migrants trying to find a better life in Europe. Austria is on the way to Germany, which is expecting 800,000 refugees this year. Many of them have fled wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerry Skyring is a journalist based in Vienna and joins me now. Thanks for being with us.

KERRY SKYRING: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This was a white cargo truck parked beside the main highway from Budapest to Vienna. What do we know now about what was found inside?

SKYRING: Police say they briefly opened the rear door of this refrigerated vehicle and observed many, many bodies inside piled on one another. The vehicle was then closed again and is now being examined by forensic experts in a village nearby. All signs point to this being a vehicle packed with refugees. It's hard to imagine the numbers that they're talking - somewhere between 20 and 50 fitting into what is a relatively small truck, but that's what they say. And the bodies had been in there for perhaps two days and had already begun to decompose. I believe they were already dead when they crossed the border from Hungary into Austria.

SHAPIRO: And Vienna, Austria, is currently hosting an international conference on the subject of the refugee crisis. How have government leaders meeting in Vienna responded to this awful development?

SKYRING: Yes. These were leaders from the Balkans and Austria, Germany and many other, including European Union officials. German chancellor Angela Merkel said, we are all shaken, and we must really quickly do something about this refugee crisis. Others turn their attention to the human smugglers who profit from trying to smuggle refugees into Europe. The Austrian Interior Ministry said they have no consideration for the welfare or even delivering their cargo to a safe place.

But it is also, along with other tragedies that are occurring on a daily basis, including sinkings in the Mediterranean, it is starting to refocus European leaders minds on what they might be able to do to try and prevent such tragedies occurring in the future.

SHAPIRO: Kerry Skyring, I have reported on the migration crisis from Bulgaria's border with Turkey at the entrance to the European Union, from coastal Turkey as people are crossing into Greece. But how does Austria, where you are, fit into this larger story?

SKYRING: Austria is both a country which accepts refugees and is a transit country, so if indeed these are refugees, there is a chance that they may have been offloaded in Austria and sought asylum here or that whoever the driver was, who's now disappeared, was transporting them onto, perhaps, Germany.

What we're seeing in Austria is refugees being just simply dumped in parking areas, breakdown areas on the side of the highway completely without any idea of where they are or what they should do.

There was an incident the other day where two trucks carrying asylum seekers crashed. The drivers left dozens of injured refugees lying in the field, jumped into a car which they had following them and went off. So Austria is simply part of what's happening in so much of Europe, particularly in Central Europe

SHAPIRO: And even as European leaders meet in Vienna to discuss solutions, more walls are going up in places like Hungary to stop the movement of people through Europe.

SKYRING: Yes. This has been heavily criticized by other European Union members - basically a barbed wire fence across the border between Hungary and Serbia. The asylum seekers are finding ways under it, over it and around it. These people are so desperate to get into Europe that they will take enormous measures to do it. Europe's going to have to come up with better answers to deal with this crisis.

SHAPIRO: Reporter Kerry Skyring in Vienna, thanks for joining us.

SKYRING: Thanks, Ari. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.