Police pulled three children near death from dehydration from a van packed with 26 Syrian and South Asian refugees near the German border, Austrian authorities said Saturday.
The two girls and one boy, aged 5 and 6, were in critical condition when police stopped the van Friday after a high-speed chase close to the town of St. Peter am Hart on the German border, Austrian police said. They were hospitalized and reported to be recovering.
"The emergency doctor told us they would not have made it much longer — two, maybe three hours," said David Furtner, police spokesman for Upper Austria province.
The Romanian driver, who had refused to pull over for a routine check, was arrested.
Meanwhile, four men suspected of involvement in the deaths of 71 migrants found in a truck Thursday in Austria were placed under preliminary arrest by a Hungarian court. The arrests will be in place for up to a month, said Ferenc Bicskei, president of the Kecskemet Court.
Also, Libyan authorities said three people were arrested on suspicion of launching a boat packed with migrants bound for Italy that sank Thursday in the Mediterranean Sea. Officials said up to 200 people may have drowned.
The migrant problem has produced Europe's largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. The United Nations estimates 300,000 people from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia have fled to Europe this year to try to escape poverty and violence. Hundreds have drowned in the Mediterranean, and authorities expect those tolls, as well as fatalities from overland smuggling, to rise.
On Friday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "horrified and heartbroken" by the latest migrant deaths. In a rare statement issued directly under his name, Ban said the conflicts and repression that force people to flee their homelands must be resolved.
The secretary-general called on European governments to offer "comprehensive responses" aimed at expanding "safe and legal channels of migration" that also demonstrate "humanity and compassion."
He also said the migrant tragedies required "a determined collective [European] political response."
Ban said he planned a “special meeting devoted to these global concerns” on September 30, during the annual General Assembly of world leaders at U.N. headquarters in New York.
Despite Ban's call for unity and compassion, Hungary announced Saturday that it had completed the first section of a razor-wire barrier along its border with Serbia.
The French news agency AFP said the 175-kilometer-long barrier aimed at stopping the refugee flow has so far failed to prevent people from crossing into the country from Macedonia.
Macedonia declared a state of emergency earlier this month in response to border crossings from Greece of some 3,000 migrants pushing daily toward western European countries.