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Austria toughens border controls

August 31, 2015

The government has announced the discovery of 200 migrants and the arrest of five smugglers within hours of tightening controls at the border with Hungary. Vienna has increased border checks to crackdown on traffickers.

Österreich verstärkt Grenzkontrollen bei Einreiseverkehr aus Ungarn Stau auf Autobahn
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Krizsan

A senior interior ministry official revealed the results of the new operation on Monday.

"In the hours since we started implementing these measures that we agreed with Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, we have been able to get more than 200 refugees out of such vehicles and we have been able to detain five smugglers," said Konrad Kogler, director general for public security, at a news conference.

Targeting people smugglers

Border authorities are targeting large vehicles including trucks and vans capable of transporting many people.

Border officers uncovered 12 migrants, including 3 children, crammed into a minivan with a French license plate shortly after implementing the new controls. The driver was immediately arrested, though no mention was made of his or her nationality. Media reported that most of the group was from Syria.

Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Austria's interior minister, said the controls were not classic border checks, speaking at the same press conference.

"We are not in violation of Schengen," she said.

Implementing stricter controls

Austrian authorities are clamping down on smugglers after the bodies of 71 migrants were discovered in an abandoned truck last week. The refrigeration lorry had traveled through Hungary.

"We will do controls for an undetermined length of time at all important border crossings in the eastern region, looking at all vehicles that have possible hiding places for trafficked people," Mikl-Leitner told ORF radio.

Tougher controls have triggered traffic jams on a major highway connecting Austria and Hungary. The move caused a line-up of vehicles at Austria's eastern border, a queue extending nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) back into Hungary.

The M1 motorway links Hungary to Austria, which shares a border with Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the east and Germany in the west.

A second main route was also gridlocked because of the checks, Hungary's road operator Magyar Kozut told MTI, the national news agency.

Infografik Flüchtlinge Balkanroute August 2015 Englisch

The government of the German state of Bavaria said on Monday that it also had launched new controls on motorways near the border. The region shares all of Germany’s border crossings with Austria.

Hungary's approach to refugees

Budapest announced that 8,792 refugees arrived in the country over the past three days. Many crossed the border with Serbia, despite Hungary building a fence intended to keep them out.

Authorities allowed hundreds of migrants continue on trains headed towards Vienna, Munich and Berlin on Monday. Police had previously blocked 2,000 people from leaving the station because they had no papers.

Hungarian police reported the arrest of a fifth suspect on Sunday in connection with the deaths of the migrants. Four Bulgarian nationals and one Afghan have already been detained as Hungary and Bulgaria continue the search for high-ranking members of the smuggling ring.

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kb/jil (Reuters, dpa, AFP)