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Hundreds Of Desperate Migrants Feared Dead Off Libya And In Austria

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the Mediterranean off Libya today, about a hundred bodies found in the water and fears of hundreds more. It's just the most recent tragedy involving migrants trying to reach Europe. We'll hear from a United Nations special representative in a moment, but first, Lauren Frayer has the latest on what's been a deadly few days.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Authorities say two boats - a dinghy and a larger wooden fishing boat - were overloaded with 500 desperate people from Syria, Africa and India, all eager to reach Europe, but the boat sank less than 10 miles off Libya's coast. The Libyan Red Crescent says about 200 people were rescued alive, but many bodies are washing ashore.

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MOHAMED AL-MISRATI: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "The Libyan coast is more than 1,200 miles long," said Red Crescent spokesman Mohamed al-Misrati. "The international community should help the Libyan authorities to control the coast and prevent smugglers from leading so many people to their deaths," he said.

European leaders were discussing the migration crisis yesterday in Vienna when a truck filled with dead bodies was discovered nearby. Police say 71 people believed to be Syrian refugees were packed inside. Spokesman Helmut Marban says the victims may have suffocated or died of thirst two days before officers found the truck.

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HELMUT MARBAN: They thought it was damaged at first time, and then they checked the car and they found blood dropping out of the car and a smell.

FRAYER: Four alleged smugglers have been arrested in Hungary, said Austria's interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

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JOHANNA MIKL-LEITNER: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "This tragedy shows that the human smugglers are not helping people - they are criminals," she said. "This should be a wake-up call," she said.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Algeciras, Spain. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.