71 people in the back of the truck

It’s been a bad week for refugees trying to get to Europe.

In Austria, 71 people — including four children, the youngest just a year old — suffocated after being locked in the back of a truck, authorities said Friday. It remained unclear why the migrants, at least some of whom were believed to have been fleeing the war in Syria, were left to die. Hungarian authorities arrested four suspected smugglers, but a police official in Austria acknowledged they were likely low-level operatives and said the ringleaders remained at large.

Meanwhile, some 2,000 miles away, at least 80 people drowned overnight Thursday when a boat, unprepared for the rigors of a trans-Mediterranean voyage, capsized soon after it departed from the Libyan coast.

The deaths added to a toll of at least 2,500 people who have lost their lives this year while seeking sanctuary in Europe.

Life is shit where the refugees live, and it’s less shit in Europe. You do the math.

Until now, much of the focus among European policymakers has been on halting the flows, either by destroying smugglers’ boats or building fences to keep would-be migrants out of Europe.

But the deadly incidents this week reflect the lengths to which people are willing to go to flee their home countries and arrive on a continent that is seen as an oasis of stability and prosperity.

You want to talk about privilege – never mind being born in the “right” body, what about being born in one of the right countries? That’s privilege for real. Syria is not the right country to have been born in right now, and neither is Libya.

Once in Libya, the migrants are desperate to leave. The country has been torn apart by civil war, with multiple factions controlling various patches of territory. Underlining the confused situation, there were conflicting reports Friday as to whether one boat had sank or two. The reported death toll ranged from 80 to 200.

The peril doesn’t end after migrants arrive in Europe, as the deaths of 71 people in the back of the truck abandoned on the main highway between Budapest and Vienna attest. The badly decomposed bodies were discovered Thursday, and police were uncertain until Friday exactly how many were inside.

What privilege we have, those of us who don’t have to risk journeys like that.

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