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IMMIGRATION

Migrant people-smuggling gang jailed in Austria

An Austrian court sentenced five people to jail on Thursday for smuggling some 2,000 refugees and migrants into the country last year, in what judges described as "excruciating conditions".

Migrant people-smuggling gang jailed in Austria
Migrants crammed into a people smuggler's van. File photo: Police

The alleged ringleader of the gang, a 43-year old Serbian national, received seven years in prison for setting up a “professional organisation” of human traffickers.

His accomplices, who included his mother and his partner, were jailed for up to four years.

Austrian police had arrested the five last September.

Prosecutors at the tribunal in Korneuburg, near Vienna, accused the group of illegally transporting 2,000 people from Hungary to Austria between spring and autumn 2015.

Dozens of migrants were crammed into small vehicles for hours without fresh air or the possibility of using a bathroom, the prosecution said.

The gang is believed to have made €350,000 ($396,000) from their criminal activities.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees trekking along the Balkan route transited through Austria last year in the hope of reaching Germany and Sweden.

The country stepped up checks for people-smugglers after the bodies of 71 migrants including four children were found in an abandoned truck on a motorway near Vienna in August 2015.

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Tell us: What was your experience like dealing with Vienna’s MA35?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna is for many immigrants their first encounter with Austrian bureaucracy. We want to hear from you about your own experience dealing with officials and the process.

Tell us: What was your experience like dealing with Vienna's MA35?

Vienna’s MA35 is a well-known office for immigrants in Austria, particularly those who live in the capital. It has received plenty of criticism for long delays, mistakes and even mistreatment of those seeking services from renewing a visa to applying for Austrian citizenship.

Yet, it is an integral part of life for immigrants and their family members, as the office is responsible for residence permits (from visas to the Anmeldebescheiningung for EU citizens), naturalisation applications and more. In short: there is no escaping it.

So, we want to hear from you: What has been your experience and importantly do you have any advice for others?

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