24 Refugees Rescued from Van With Doors Welded Shut in Vienna

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
/ Source: Reuters
By Alastair Jamieson

Two dozen young refugees were rescued from the back of a van whose doors had been welded shut, authorities in Austria said Wednesday.

The migrants, who are aged from 16 to 20 and are mostly Afghan nationals, were found inside the vehicle after it was stopped by police in Vienna on Tuesday, the country's interior ministry said in a statement.

They were in "a life-threatening situation," the ministry said, adding that the 30-year-old Romanian driver tried to flee but was later caught by a police sniffer dog.

The locked door of a van in which 24 refugees were found inside.AUSTRIAN POLICE / HANDOUT / EPA

It comes less than one week after 71 bodies were found in an abandoned truck on a highway a few miles further south, near the Slovakian border.

"These people were not able to free themselves."

Vienna police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger said: "At first [officers] were not able to open the vehicle but heard people's voices coming from the back of the van. They then broke open the doors and found 24 people penned in the back. The majority of these young people were 16 or 17 years old."

He added that the space in the back measured 6ft 6in by 9ft 10in and was only 5ft 10in high.

"The police really came across a terrible situation," Keiblinger said. "The scene there was really awful. The people were sitting on top of each other, standing on top of each other and had no chance of opening the door themselves from inside.

He added: "The doors were welded shut, the windows had bars over them. These people were not able to free themselves."

Interior Minister Mag Johanna Mikl-Leitner said: "This arrest is for me a sign that our actions against the traffickers have an effect."