Truck tragedies: Migrant deaths include eight in Wexford in 2001

There have been several cases of migrants found dead in heavy goods vehicles

In August 2015, an abandoned truck containing 71 dead migrants was found by the side of a motorway in Nickelsdorf, Austria.  Photograph: EP

In August 2015, an abandoned truck containing 71 dead migrants was found by the side of a motorway in Nickelsdorf, Austria. Photograph: EP


According to the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) missing migrants database, 58 people have died on migration routes across Europe so far this year, with 22 deaths in “vehicle-related incidents” – largely car crashes.

There have been a number of high-profile cases of migrants being found dead after spending long periods in heavy goods vehicles over the years, including one in Co Wexford 18 years ago.

Dover, 2000

In June 2000, 58 bodies were found in a truck that had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to the English port town. The migrants in this instance were Chinese, and had died by suffocation after the only air vent in the truck was closed to lessen the chance of detection.

The people were found in an airtight container which had partially been loaded with tomatoes. Two people survived the ordeal. The driver of the lorry received a sentence of 14 years, while three years later, a Dutch court jailed seven members of a Chinese gang for smuggling illegal immigrants. Four of the suspects were charged in connection with the Dover incident.

Wexford, 2001

While stopped in Rosslare, a lorry driver transporting what was supposed to be a load of furniture from Milan noticed the customs seal on his load was broken. Gardaí were called, and discovered 13 people who had been in the container for more than five days. Eight of them, including four children, had suffocated. The migrants had paid traffickers up to €15,000 to be transported west. The traffickers had assumed the container would be unloaded in Dover, but it was sent directly to Ireland. A trial of the people smugglers at the centre of the incident heard the group made up to €12 million a year from human trafficking. Two ringleaders were convicted in a Belgian court in 2003, but fled. One was apprehended in 2012, but the court annulled the conviction. Some of the survivors of the tragedy settled in Dublin and Wexford.

Austria, 2015

The discovery of the bodies of 71 migrants in a truck by the side of a motorway in Austria shocked Europe as political leaders were struggling to deal with the consequences of that summer’s migrant crisis. A total of 59 men, eight women and four children – including a baby girl – from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan died in the truck.

The vehicle had been abandoned on the hard shoulder of the Austrian motorway by a gang of people smugglers who, a court later heard, were trafficking up to 100 people a day into Europe. Detectives discovered the bodies after liquid was noticed dripping from the refrigerated lorry, which originated in Hungary. A court in Budapest eventually convicted four human traffickers of the crime, jailing them for life.