Austrian authorities uncovered about 200 asylum seekers and arrested five human traffickers as part of a new operation along the country’s borders, officials said Monday.
Konrad Kogler, director-general for public security at the Interior Ministry, said: "In the hours since we started implementing these measures that we agreed with Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, we have been able to get more than 200 refugees out of such vehicles and we have been able to detain five smugglers," Reuters reported.
The news came as Austrian officials announced a clampdown on border travel. Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, speaking at the same news conference, said that additional border checks were being put in place, and rejected claims that they were in violation of Europe’s free-travel Schengen zone.
"These are not border controls," Kogler said, adding that the same checks were taking place across Austria itself. "It is about ensuring that people are safe, that they are not dying, on the one hand, and about traffic security, on the other."
The new checks, which resulted in a 15-mile queue of vehicles at the Austrian border that stretched into Hungary, come as Europe struggles to deal with a massive influx of migrants.
Also on Monday, early reports indicated that migrants were storming trains in Budapest that were bound for Austria and Germany, according to Agence France-Presse. Meanwhile, policemen and migrants in Budapest told Reuters that migrants at the city's Eastern Railway station were being allowed onto trains bound for Vienna and Germany.
Thousands of migrants, fleeing violence and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, are trying to enter the European Union. An unprecedented 340,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year, and over 2,000 have died in transit.
Between January and July, 102,342 people crossed into Austria from the Western Balkans.
Several European officials, including the leaders of Germany and France, have called for a stronger response to the crisis and for EU nations to do more to help resettle refugees among its member nations. EU ministers are due to meet in September to discuss solutions to the crisis.
In June, the EU approved a naval military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean which, authorities said, could allow European forces to board and, in some cases, sink vessels used for trafficking if a United Nations mandate is secured.