In the early hours of Tuesday, German media reported that 56 migrants were left by the side of the motorway in snowy south-eastern Germany, not far from the Czech border.
The 56 migrants, left by the side of the A6 motorway near the German town of Wernberg on December 1, are presumed to have been dropped there by a people smuggler, reported local broadcaster Oberpfalz TV (OTV).
According to that broadcaster, 52 of the migrants came from Syria, two from Somalia and two from the Palestinian Territories. The majority were men but the group also included three Syrian women and six children between two and fourteen years old.
A German citizen is reported to have raised the alarm after seeing the group, some of them "wandering around looking lost," by the side of the road following a heavy snowfall.
A small group of them reportedly sought shelter in a local farmhouse, according to German news agency dpa. The people were already very cold and were meant to be waiting "several hours" for the next driver to come and pick them up and continue their journey.
Looking for those who are behind this
OTV said that around the time that the migrants were found, there were several lorries "circling" in the region, some of which had reportedly driven from the western German industrial region, the Ruhrgebiet, (not far from the Dutch border) towards the Oberpfalz.
Once the police arrived, the 56 migrants were taken as quickly as possible to the local firestation in Wernberg. OTV quotes the deputy director of the State Police (Bundespolizei) Waidhaus and chief Iinspector, Roland Vogt, who said "Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Johanniter emergency services in Schwandorf and Schwarzenfeld for helping the freezing people, as well as Wernberg fire services and the city of Wernberg for being so supportive."
Once the group was warm, some of them were taken to the police station in Waidhaus and another group to nearby Waldmünchen to register them, help them further and continue the investigations.
The head of the investigative team with the State Police in Waidhaus, Chief Inspector Martin Roth said that his team would be "working extremely hard to find the people who are behind this group and the lorries involved." He said he believed the group had been smuggled from Romania to Wernberg in "inhumane conditions."
More cases in the area
Earlier on Monday, November 30, another case of people smuggling was discovered in the area. In the police records online for the town of Wernberg-Köblitz, it is noted that traffic police discovered three Afghan men without documents in the back of a lorry which had traveled from Turkey. These men were discovered on the A73 near Möhrendorf.
The lorry driver, according to the police, is being "investigated for suspected people smuggling from abroad." The 54-year-old driver said that he had heard knocking coming from the back of his lorry and thought that he was going to find people inside.
The traffic police opened up the lorry and found the three young men in their twenties, who said they were from Afghanistan. The lorry driver was arrested and the three Afghan men were taken to a center for asylum seekers. After questioning, the lorry driver was released.
An established route?
In November, (November 12) the local newspaper Oberpfalz Echo reported that police had come across another 21 migrants in another suspected smuggling case. In this case too, a local resident rang the police after seeing a "large group wandering around, who looked like they came from abroad and had rucksacks on their back."
Following the call, the police arrived and found a group of ten people without documents. In collaboration with the border police, they found a further eight migrants, and later three more in the city of Pleystein.
At the time of the report, investigations were still under way. But police sources told the Oberpfalz Echo that the men in this case came from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and were between 15 and 30 years of age. Six of them were unaccompanied minors and were taken into care by the authorities.
Ten of the adults had already applied for asylum in Romania and Bulgaria and will be sent back there to continue their asylum processes. Four of the Bangladeshi group are meant to be taken back to the Czech Republic and one young Bangladeshi man was taken to an asylum seeker’s center in Regensburg.