German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attending the Western Balkan summit in Vienna, on Thursday said she was “shaken” by the news that the bodies of at least 20 dead migrants – and possibly as many as 40 or 50 – had been found in an abandoned lorry in eastern Austria.
The remains were discovered on Thursday morning on a motorway between Neusiedl and Parndorf.
The truck had been abandoned on the road near Parndorf and had apparently been there since Wednesday.
Merkel said that “the awful news… reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity”.
The owner of the lorry has yet to be traced but the driver is believed to be from Romania.
The discovery came as leaders from the EU and western Balkans gathered at the Vienna conference to discuss how to deal with Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War 2.
“Just another terrible incident, illustrating the urgent need for quick and determined common action” the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, tweeted from the summit.
Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann, whose country is hosting the summit, said that nations need to work more closely together on a solution to the crisis.
“Today refugees lost the lives they had tried to save by escaping, but lost them at the hands of traffickers,” he said.
The tragedy overshadowed a summit that was already expecting to be dominated by the migrant crisis.
Several of the six Balkan nations attending the summit say they have been overwhelmed by the number of people arriving on their borders and seeking free passage to Western Europe.
Serbia and Macedonia in particular have been especially inundated in recent weeks.
The erection of a border fence between Hungary and Serbia may make matters worse by forcing the migrants to find other routes westwards. Most are heading for Germany, which says it expects to receive as many as 800,000 asylum requests this year.