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May 28, 2023

Austria Criticises Hungary’s Decision to Release Convicted Human Traffickers, Wants

The Government of Austria has asked authorities in Hungary for explanations following the latter’s decision to release internationals convicted of human trafficking.

In addition, the Hungarian’s leaders latest announcement led a large number of persons in Austria to protest against the early release of convicted people smugglers, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Austrian Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that the decision has a direct impact on Austria’s security, while the ministry expects an immediate and comprehensive clarification from authorities in Hungary.

Over the weekend, Austria’s Interior Minister, Gerhard Karner, decided to tighten border controls while Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg discussed the current situation with his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto.

According to an Associated Press report, authorities in Hungary took such a step by releasing the convicted people smugglers as part of efforts to free up space in Hungarian prisons and unburden taxpayers. At the same time, the government decree says that prisoners must leave Hungary within 72 hours of their release.

“As long as there is overcrowding in the prisons … it is a correct decision that we don’t want to use Hungarian taxpayer money to finance the care of several hundred human smugglers,” chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Gergely Gulyas, said pointed out earlier this month.

Authorities in Austria criticized the Hungarian decision to release the smugglers, considering it a contradiction to Hungary’s own stance on migrants.

“The justification that is imprisoning human traffickers with foreign nationalities is too expensive is opposed to Hungary’s previously self-declared hard line against human trafficking,” the Austrian Foreign Ministry statement said.

As part of efforts to better protect the borders and manage the migration situation, the Minister of Interior of Austria, Gerhard Karner, last month announced that the country would extend internal border controls with Hungary and Slovenia for another six months, starting from May 11.

The Minister considered such a measure necessary for the safety of the Austrian population.

Karner said that the country has been experiencing high migration pressure since last year, which has led to maintaining the border controls in place in order to prevent these movements. In addition, back then, the Minister said that up to this point, a total of 80 smugglers had been arrested as a result of border controls.

However, authorities in Slovenia continue to oppose such a plan. Previously, the President of Slovenia, Natasa Pirc Musar, warned authorities in Austria that if the country continues to keep border controls in place, Ljubljana will take the matter to Brussels.

Recently, the European Union warned Austria that it would take legal action regarding Vienna’s decision to keep border controls in place on the common border with Slovenia.