Three children rescued from van near German border resume journey – The Guardian

Three children who had been recovering in hospital after being found in the back of a van in Austria have been taken by their parents to continue the journey to Germany.

The children were admitted to hospital with severe dehydration after being found in the back of a van with 26 people believed to be from Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The vehicle was stopped close to the German border in the small town of St Peter am Hart.

Police spokesman David Furtner said the parents had taken the children in secret, but he added that they had received medical care and were in a stable condition.

“They decided to go in the direction of Germany. They didn’t want to stay in Austria,” he told the Guardian. “If they had stayed, we would have taken them for interviews and asked where they came from, where they want to go [and about] the smuggler … with the possible result that we would have had to send them back to Hungary,” he said.

Erwin Windischbauer, chief executive of the St Josef Braunau hospital in Braunau, said the children should have stayed in hospital for another few days, but that it was not a problem they had left before being officially discharged.

“They were on the way to recovery,” he said. “It would have been even better for them to stay … but they were not in a life-threatening condition.”

The 29-year-old Romanian driver of the van was arrested and is in custody.

The discovery of the three children came the day after Austrian police said 71 people had died in a refrigerated chicken lorry dumped on hard shoulder of the A4 motorway. Hungarian police said on a Sunday that a fifth man, a Bulgarian citizen, had been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

Three Bulgarians and one Afghan citizen were already under arrest pending an investigation in Hungary. They face up to 16 years in prison for trafficking in Hungary and murder charges in Austria.

Austrian police said on Sunday that forensic examiners had performed autopsies on 16 of the bodies and had concluded they suffocated.

Both groups of migrants almost certainly took the same route through the western Balkans, via Turkey, Greece and Macedonia, as thousands of others have done.

Police who found the three children said medical staff believed they would not have survived much longer. “It was a very close call,” said Furtner. “The driver did not give a damn about the people in the back. We would not transport animals under these conditions on our roads in Austria.”

Pope Francis on Sunday invited the faithful in St Peter’s Square to pray silently with him for those who die “on their terrible journeys” to Europe.