Hungary receives Austrian request to take over truck deaths case

by Reuters
Thursday, 22 October 2015 10:00 GMT

BUDAPEST, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Hungarian prosecutors have received a request from Austria to take over the case of 71 migrants found dead in a lorry on an Austrian road in August, the Chief Prosecutor's Office said on Thursday.

Austrian authorities said earlier this month they wanted to transfer the case to Hungary, where four Bulgarians and an Afghan citizen are already in custody.

The discovery of the truckload of corpses provoked shock and outrage at the exploitation of refugees by gangs of people-traffickers, who extort money by promising to smuggle them into western Europe.

While more than 3,000 people have drowned this year while attempting to cross to Europe by sea, the case highlighted the dangers migrants face in their onward journeys by land as they try to make their way to affluent countries like Germany.

The 71 victims included Syrians, Kurds, Iraqis and Afghans.

Hungarian authorities have so far only investigated the human trafficking aspect of the crime, but murder charges could be added if prosecutors accept the Austrian request. They have yet to say if they will.

"We are translating and examining the notice, and will be able to give further information once that is completed," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Hungary was for months among the main transit countries for arriving migrants, with nearly 400,000 crossing the country this year alone.

Last week, Hungary closed the remaining stretch of its southern border, shutting off that transit route but contributing to a growing backlog of migrants in the Balkans awaiting an onward journey to Germany via tiny Slovenia instead. (Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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