A six-year-old girl was among the dead after the Mercedes van dodged a police check at “greatly excessive speed” and overturned on a motorway in Bavaria, near the Austrian border.
Fifteen other passengers were injured on the crowded minibus, with the driver also hurt and taken into custody as prosecutors investigate a possible case of homicide.
The crumpled minivan lay on its side with its windscreen shattered as the injured passengers – also from Turkey and Syria – were taken to nearby hospitals.
Police said the driver, a 24-year-old stateless man who lives in Austria, lost control of the vehicle after fleeing a patrol car at 180 kph. Some passengers were flung from the vehicle, which had a total of 23 people on board.
The crash sparked immediate calls for tougher border controls, amid a fierce immigration debate fuelled by a rise in illegal border crossings.
“It shows the cruel way in which smugglers put people's lives at risk,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement on the early-morning accident. She said authorities “must destroy the cruel trade of the people-smuggling gangs who make profit out of people's desperation.”
The state of Bavaria’s interior minister called for tougher border checks to stem the flow of unauthorised migrants into Germany.
“This incident shows how important it is to further strengthen immediate border controls so that smugglers are stopped at the border,” Joachim Herrmann told German news agency dpa.
The recent surge in arrivals has piled pressure on ministers and fuelled support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz was due to hold migration talks with the opposition and regional leaders on Friday after complaints from local authorities that they cannot handle the influx while also housing Ukrainian refugees.
Germany recorded more than 250,000 asylum claims in the year to September, more than in all of 2022.
Ministers this week unveiled a draft deportation law that would allow them to expel people more quickly, including by forcing suspected gang members out even if they have no individual criminal convictions.
While cracking down on irregular migration, the German government is also trying to recruit more skilled visa workers to fill labour shortages in sectors such as IT and social care.