Prisons overcrowded with people smugglers

The Local Austria
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Prisons overcrowded with people smugglers
Eisenstadt prison. Photo:

Ten of Austria’s 27 prisons are hopelessly overcrowded due to the amount of people smugglers being held in custody awaiting trial. According to a report in the Kurier newspaper, 534 people are currently in Austrian prisons on charges of people smuggling.


To deal with the overcrowding, many prisoners end up being shunted between different prisons. Eisenstadt prison has had the greatest influx of people smugglers, as many were caught trying to cross the border from Hungary into Burgenland.

One of the prison wings, designed to accommodate 78 inmates, is currently crammed with 120 - many of them sleeping on camp beds supplied by the Red Cross.

Hirtenberg prison in Lower Austria has now been converted to a remand centre for Eisenstadt - with convicted prisoners transferred to other prisons. “The situation is quite challenging,” Hirtenberg warden Brigadier Alfred Steinacher said.

Suspects remanded in custody ahead of trial have to be kept separate from other prisoners in case they come into contact with any accomplices. "We have to divide the inmates into six groups, who have to exercise in the yard at different times," Steinacher said.

Language is also proving to be a challenge, with only three out of the 114 remand prisoners in Hirtenberg speaking any German. "We have ordered pictograms, so that we can point to the corresponding symbols for simple things such as the doctor or prison counsellor," Steinacher added.


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