The worn-out shoe lying in the thin space between a train carriage’s flat-bed and the goods container is a tell-tale sign that a stowaway had hitched a ride, according to a German police tasked with detecting migrants to AFP.
“Maybe the migrant jumped off the train to evade checks in Austria and had no time to put his shoe on,” said Rainer Scharf, a police spokesman at the small southern German station of Raubling, where a team of officers had arrived to inspect freight train carriages.
A little further down under another container, flattened water bottles and biscuit packaging suggested that at least one other migrant was on the train.
Such finds are becoming alarmingly common as freight trains gain popularity with migrants seeking to reach northern Europe.
Many of these mostly sub-Saharan African or north African migrants have arrived in Europe by sea, boarding rickety vessels to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to reach Italy.
Since 2014, more than 600,000 people have landed in Italy after the dangerous sea journey, and some 14,000 people have lost their lives trying to cross.
And some are taking a second gamble with their lives by jumping on freight trains to get to destinations such as Germany.
Between July and mid-September, more than 200 people were found on such trains.
In comparison, there were hardly any such stowaways in 2016, and only around 20 cases in the first half of this year.
Police say the new route arose after Schengen countries reimposed border controls in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis.