Suspected people smugglers arrested on Austrian border as 200 migrants recovered in one night

The recovery follows the deaths of 71 refugees in the back of a van

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The Independent Online

Authorities have stepped up arrests against suspected “people smugglers” along Austria’s eastern border - creating a huge traffic jam on the main road between Budapest and Vienna.

Austrian police say they have recovered 200 people being smuggled in vehicles overnight with five suspected smugglers detained by Hungarian officials.

At its peak, the gridlock extended for the more than 18 miles, the traffic monitoring firm Utinform reported.

The operation comes as hundreds of migrants are reported to have boarded a train from Budapest to Munich, the Reuters news agency reports.

Such a train, which would pass through Austria, travels through the EU’s Schengen area, in which mandatory border controls have been abolished.

“I have been here sleeping on the floor like a dog with my two sons for six days," a 35-year-old Syrian refugee with a ticket for the train told a reporter in Budapest. “Today we leave this country behind and join my sisters in Munich, inshallah.”

Hungary’s border with Serbia is a major migration and refugee route and regarded as one of the most porous land borders into the European Union.

Once inside the European Union at Hungary, people can generally travel without fear of border checks.

Authorities are however stepping up efforts to spot smuggling and undocumented migration.

There were reports earlier this month of clashes between migrants and riot police in Macedonia, which lies to the south of Serbia and is on the route for migrants arriving through Greece via Turkish ports.

 

The only exception to this in the UK, which has not signed the Schengen agreement abolishing border controls.

The numbers of people migrating to European countries from Africa and the Middle East has dramatically increased in recent months, with many people fleeing conflict as refugees.

71 people were found dead in the back of a small lorry in Austria last week, the victims of desperate smuggling conditions.

Austrian forensics and medical experts are performing autopsies on the victims of the tragedy, who number 59 men, eight women and four children.

Police believe they are likely to have suffocated to death.

“One can suspect that this was a Syrian group, or (that there were) a few Syrians,” Burgenland province police chief Hans Peter Doskozil told the Austria Press Agency.

“But it could be mixed. We don't know at this point.”

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