By Anthony Faiola,
BERLIN — Austrian authorities launched an international probe Thursday into the deaths of up to 50 suspected migrants, with white-suited forensic experts still struggling to count the badly decomposed corpses left in a tragedy that immediately touched off a new round of recriminations over Europe’s handling of an escalating refugee crisis.
The bodies were discovered shortly before noon local time after a highway patrol officer investigated a liquid and putrid smell coming from the back of a truck abandoned near the Austrian village of Parndorf on the main expressway between Vienna and Budapest.
The incident came as top European officials were huddling in the Austrian capital, partly to discuss the biggest wave of refugees pouring into Europe since World War II, with most of them coming from war-torn countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
[Refugees race into Hungary as border fence nears completion]
The record surge so far this year has brought almost 300,000 desperate migrants into Europe by sea, surpassing the 217,000 who arrived during the whole of 2014. Many are asylum seekers traveling from southern entry points such as Greece toward promised lands such as Germany, Austria and Sweden, where successful applicants can win generous benefits. But European nations remain divided over how much responsibility to take for their safe passage, as well as which nations should take them in.
Deaths of migrants at sea and, to a lesser degree, on land are rising. Late Thursday, Reuters quoted an unidentified Libyan official as saying that a boat full of migrants heading for Italy had sunk off the Libyan coast, leaving as many as 200 people dead. About 4,400 migrants were picked up in the Channel of Sicily last Saturday and Sunday in what the International Organization for Migration called one of the busiest weekends for search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean since the start of the year.
A booming smuggling industry has arisen both on land and sea, and authorities suspect the bodies found in the truck on Thursday were the result of a trafficking operation gone terribly wrong.
Austria reacted to the tragedy by announcing plans geared more toward blocking than aiding asylum seekers, vowing to increase border controls and impose stiffer penalties on smugglers.
Speaking in Vienna, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shaken by the terrible news that up to 50 people have lost their lives because they ended up in a situation where …Read More
Discovery of up to 50 bodies in truck highlights European migrant crisis – Washington Post
By Anthony Faiola,