Austria strengthens border controls with Hungary

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After Hungary’s government released foreign prisoners convicted of human smuggling in Hungary, Austria has stepped up border controls with the neighboring country. Austria Press Agency reported that the Interior Ministry confirmed that border controls had been intensified. The checks focus on vehicles from Hungary, Romania, and Serbia. In addition, it is to be examined whether a continuation of police cooperation with Hungary is possible.
Under a decree issued by the right-wing nationalist Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán at the end of the previous month, jailed traffickers will be released if they leave Hungary within 72 hours. Hungarian criminal law inherently provides for long prison sentences of two to 20 years for people smuggling. Chancellery Minister Gergely Gulyás justified the move, saying imprisoning foreign criminals would be too expensive.

According to official figures, there are currently 2,600 foreigners from 73 countries in detention in Hungary, most of whom are criminals convicted of smuggling. Hungarian media spoke of the release of 700 people, mainly from Serbia, Romania, and Ukraine. Their sentences would not be overturned, it was said in Budapest. If those released did not leave Hungary within 72 hours and were picked up by police, they would be immediately taken back into custody.

Resistance to the measure is already stirring in Hungary. Other prisoners are protesting the release of convicted criminals. About 13 percent of all prisoners are convicted of trafficking. There have also been concerns from human rights activists.

Austria had reacted irritated on Friday after the measure became known. “Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner has instructed the Director General for Public Security to contact the Hungarian authorities and prepare any countermeasures immediately,” it says Friday afternoon from the Interior Ministry. The traffickers are “criminals who belong to organized crime. Their brutal actions endanger human lives,” the ministry said. “In addition to intensifying border controls, further measures are being examined in the Ministry of the Interior,” a spokesman added on Sunday.

  • source: k.at/picture: pixabay.com
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