Austrian Police discover as many as 50 dead refugees in refrigerator truck
Austrian Police have found what may be as many as 50 dead refugees in a parked truck in the east of the country near the border with Hungary. The exact number of dead refugees found in the refrigerator truck and other details will be announced tomorrow at 11:00 CET.
Austrian coroners will determine the cause of death in each individual case in the days to come. Peter Doskozil, Police Chief for the Austrian state of Burgenland, made the announcement at a press conference this evening.
Doskozil confirmed that there were more than 20 and perhaps as many as 50 human bodies in the vehicle, which was previously the property of Slovak poultry firm Hyza, and that there is a "very, very high probability that they are refugees". The vehicle was towed to a facility which used to be a veterinary station at the border in Nickelsdorf, where the conditions are appropriate for inspecting the corpses.
The truck has not yet been fully opened. The proper temperature conditions must be established before that can happen.
After the bodies are inspected, they will be transported to Vienna tomorrow for autopsy. Doskozil said he estimates the people in the refrigerator truck might have been dead for two days already.
According to what has been learned so far, the people were dead prior to the vehicle entering Austrian territory. Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said at the press conference today that "This tragedy has affected us all."
"Human traffickers are criminals," she said. "Those who still think that they are gentle helpers of refugees are beyond saving."
The truck was found on the side of the A4 highway near the eastern town of Neusiedl am See. The A4 is the main artery between Budapest and Vienna.
Austrian newspaper Kurier reported that according to initial information, the refugees suffocated while travelling in the storage space of the vehicle. Whoever was driving the vehicle fled the scene.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that Austrian detectives have not yet managed to determine what exactly happened in the vehicle or when the people died. According to photographs and video footage released of the vehicle, it is marked with the logo of Hyza, Slovakia'se leading processor and producer of poultry.
In response to the tragedy, Hyza said it had sold the vehicle in question and the new owner never removed their logo from it. "The vehicle with Hungarian plates used in this crime was released from the company's fleet and then sold as part of an operation in 2013 and 2014 when the company sold off another 20 vehicles of that type to seven different private companies in the Slovak Republic," the company's statement says, adding that all of the company's own vehicles are equipped with GPS and are still on the territory of Slovakia.
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