Austria finds dozens of migrants in refrigerated truck

Dozens of migrants, including children, have been discovered hiding in a refrigerated truck, Austrian police said on Wednesday after arresting a suspected member of a network smuggling people through the EU.

The case recalled the 2015 tragedy of 71 decomposing bodies loaded in the back of a refrigerated vehicle abandoned on a highway in Austria. They had died of suffocation in Hungary and four smugglers - an Afghan and three Bulgarians - were convicted and jailed.

Police said in the current case, 38 people from Syria, Iraq and Turkey, including six minors, were held last week after their truck pulled up in Lower Austria.

The migrants said they had "been afraid they would die and suffered a lack of oxygen" during the trip from Romania through Hungary, a police statement said, without specifying where the truck was headed.

Several passengers, who paid between €6,000 and €8,000 (S$9,638 and S$12,850) for the trip, managed to run into nearby fields when the vehicle stopped along a highway, leading witnesses to alert the authorities. The 51-year-old driver, a Turkish citizen living in Romania, was also arrested.

"We are currently seeing a rise in smuggling," Lower Austria police official Omar Haijawi-Pirchner said, adding investigations focused on "smashing" the smuggling network involved to "avoid further crimes".

More on this subject: Migration crisis

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