As the migrant crisis continues to escalate and individuals and families flee from the violence in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, or are attempting to find a better life for themselves in the more developed countries in Europe, the world has been stunned into shocked silence. The bodies of dozens of people have been found in the back of a lorry that was found abandoned on an Austrian highway.
At first it was believed there could be as many 50 bodies locked inside the truck. However, officials today announced that figure totalled 71.
Locked inside the truck were 59 men, eight women, and four children, one of whom Burgenland Police director Hans Peter Doskozil has said was no older than two.
The discovery was first made on Thursday when the vehicle, with a Hungarian number plate, was found parked on the shoulder of the busy road that connects eastern Europe to France and Germany. Workers cutting grass close to where the vehicle was parked noticed fluid dripping from the back door and notified officials.
However, what is currently baffling investigators is why the 71 individuals were locked inside the lorry when there are no border checks in the region, meaning they didn't need to be hidden away.
The shocking discovery came as European leaders were meeting in Vienna to discuss the growing migrant crisis. Upon hearing the news, German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters:
"This is a warning for us to tackle the issue of migration quickly. We have more refugees in the world than at any time since World War II."
Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said:
"This tragedy underscores the ruthlessness of people smugglers who have expanded their business from the Mediterranean sea to the highways of Europe. It shows they have no regard for human life and are only after profit. It also the desperation of people seeking protection or a new life in Europe."
Four individuals deemed to be behind the smuggling of the migrants have since been arrested.
This is not the first time migrants have been found in the back of locked vehicles. On August 9th, 86 individuals, one of whom was a heavily pregnant woman, were freed from the back of a vehicle on another highway in Austria.
The 71 deaths come at a time when it is feared up to 200 have drowned off the coast of Libya as hundreds attempted to make the perilous journey across the sea to Europe.
We are truly saddened by this news, and our hearts go out to the families of the lost.