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Baby girl among 71 dead in refrigerated lorry as migrant crisis deepens

By Andrew Marzal

Published 29/08/2015

A truck which was found parked on a main Austrian highway with 71 dead migrants inside sits at a veterinary border station on the Austrian/Hungarian border in Nickelsdor
A truck which was found parked on a main Austrian highway with 71 dead migrants inside sits at a veterinary border station on the Austrian/Hungarian border in Nickelsdor

Europe's migration crisis continues to escalate after 71 bodies were discovered in a abandoned freezer truck in Austria.

The refugees included a baby girl. It also emerged yesterday that hundreds of migrants may have been killed in the Mediterranean.

Libya recovered the bodies of 82 migrants washed ashore after their overcrowded boat sank on its way to Europe. At least 100 others are missing.

Police have revealed that the migrants in Austria died inside the white refrigeration vehicle, which was designed to carry frozen food. The bodies were so tightly packed and decomposed that police were initially unable to count them accurately.

The vehicle, carrying Hungarian licence plates, was found on the A4 highway near the town of Parndorf. The white lorry displayed the slogan "Honest chicken" and "I taste so well because they feed me so well".

Its logos suggested the vehicle was owned by Hyza, a Slovak meat company controlled by Agrofert Holding, a Czech conglomerate. Agrofert said the lorry had been sold last year.

Those hiding on board had been dead for several days. Whether they were killed by asphyxiation, hypothermia or some other cause was unclear.

The truck was left at the lay-by on Wednesday with its rear door open. Police believe it was parked for at least 24 hours before the bodies were discovered.

Its location suggested the migrants had crossed into Austria from Hungary, which has become a major entry point for refugees trying to reach EU countries.

The tragedy in Austria shocked European leaders, who were holding a summit on the migration crisis in Vienna, barely 30 miles from the lorry packed with bodies.

Three Bulgarians and an Afghan were arrested in connection with the truck deaths.

The victims - 59 men, eight women and four children, including a girl of one to two years old - were probably from Syria, police said.

The UN refugee agency said the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe had already passed 300,000 this year, up from 219,000 in the whole of 2014. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders were ready for an emergency meeting, if needed, to discuss the refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, a security official in the Libyan town of Zuwara, from where the doomed migrant boat had set off, said there were around 400 people on board. Many appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized.

"About 100 people are still missing," said Ibrahim al-Attoushi, and 198 have been rescued. The migrants were from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh.

Zuwara, near the Tunisian border, is a major launchpad for smugglers shipping migrants to Italy.

The Italian coastguard said 1,430 people were rescued in operations off Libya on Thursday, while in Greece, coastguards said they saved more than 1,600 migrants making their way to Greek islands near Turkey over the past three days.

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