On Thursday, as Krishnadev Calamur has been tracking in The Atlantic’s new Notes section, Austrian authorities made a ghastly discovery: a truck abandoned in the emergency lane of a highway near the Hungarian border, packed with the decomposing bodies of 59 men, eight women, and four children. They are thought to be the corpses of migrants who suffocated to death, perhaps two days earlier, in the bowels of a vehicle whose back door was locked shut and refrigeration and ventilation systems weren’t functional. Stray identity documents suggest that at least some of the victims were Syrian—refugees from that country’s brutal civil war. The truck featured an image of a chicken and a slogan from the Slovakian poultry company that the lorry once belonged to: “I taste so good because they feed me so well.”
“You have to understand,” the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire once wrote in relation to refugees, “that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” Embedded in this week’s horrific news is a harrowing reality: The 71 migrants who perished en route to Austria were escaping a hell they must have considered far worse than the forbidding truck they crowded into.