Freight trains searched in Austria after migrants crushed to death

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Freight trains searched in Austria after migrants crushed to death

We avoid catastrophes on a daily basis

Gerald Tatzgem Austrian Interior Ministry

Austrian police have started searching freight trains travelling from Italy at night in an attempt to tackle illegal migration and prevent further deaths.

In temperatures of around minus four degrees Celsius, police officers and rail security guards in Steinach station searched 10 freight trains, some of which were 600 metres long.

Crushed to death

The decision comes after two stowaways died earlier this month.

A man and a woman from Eritrea had hidden on a train bringing trucks from southern Italy.

They were crushed to death in the Tyrol region of Austria. Investigators say it is likely they had lost consciousness, due to the freezing winter temperatures.

The numbers

Since early November, police in the Tyrol have picked up around 90 African migrants heading for Germany.

The rail link is mainly used by cargo trains going from Italy across the Alps.

The Balkan route

Austria championed the de-facto closing this spring of the Balkan route.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, violence and destruction in the Middle East and Afghanistan used it to reach western Europe last year.

Countries like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Hungary have strongly tightened controls of road traffic and border regions.

Fences have also been erected.

This, and a deal the European Union reached with Turkey to stem the flow, have resulted in more and more people resorting to travelling across the Mediterranean in flimsy boats to reach Italy.

Most of them want to travel north to Austria, Germany or the Scandinavian countries.

What they are saying

“Illegal migrants always try to scout out new ways to get north. We have reacted to this phenomenon of freight train stowaways with intensified controls,” – Manfred Dummer, Tyrol police.

“We avoid catastrophes on a daily basis,” – Gerald Tatzgem, head of the anti-human trafficking unit at Austria’s Interior Ministry.