Hungarian authorities could have prevented tragic death of 71 migrants in 2015, report concludes

June 15, 2017

The death from asphyxiation of  71 asylum seekers mostly from Syria in August 2015  could have been avoided if Hungarian authorities had intervened sooner, concludes a joint investigative report workgroup of Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and regional public media companies Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), reports Hungarian news site index.hu.

Departing from the vicinity of Kecskemét in Hungary destined for Germany, the small truck’s human cargo was crammed into a space ordinarily used to transport poultry.   Abandoned in eastern Austria with its 71 dead, including four children, the shocking incident made international headlines.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung Hungarian authorities had been monitoring the human traffickers’ phone calls for 13 days before the tragedy, but the intercepted conversations were translated and analyzed too late for police to intervene in time.  In one intercepted conversation, the driver of the truck tells the boss of the human trafficking gang that he hears banging and yelling from the back. The driver asks if he should pull over and give the people water, but the Afghan boss of the organisation says no. In another conversation the boss is heard saying “It cannot happen that [the driver] opens the door”, and “If people die, throw them out somewhere in Germany in the forest.”

“If Hungarian authorities had had a chance to prevent this terrible act they would have done so, but they could translate and evaluate the recorded conversations only after this terrible act took place,” Bács-Kiskun County prosecutor office spokesman Gábor Schmidt told the joint workgroup.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, despite multiple requests Hungarian authorities did not provide information regarding the exact time of the evaluation of the recorded conversations.

Although right after the discovery of the abandoned truck the police spokesman stated that National Police Chief Károly Papp coordinated with the Austrian authorities on the same day and “offered [the Hungarian authorities’] help to find the perpetrator as soon as possible,” the fact that the Hungarian authorities had been monitoring the trafficking gang was not mentioned.

After a one and a half year-long investigation, the Bács-Kiskun County Prosecutor charged 11 people with homicide and human trafficking in a criminal organisation in May. According to the indictment, the accused illegally transported some 1200 people in enclosed trucks without ventilation that are not suitable for passenger transport between February and August 2015 on a total of 31 occasions.