Early on Sunday morning, a routine border check on the A4 highway near Nickelsdorf took place, which found a van packed with foreign visitors.
According to police reports, there were 11 men and six woman, with seven each coming from Iraq and Afghanistan, two from Syria and one from Pakistan.
The 30-year-old Romanian driver was arrested on suspicion of people-smuggling, a crime which usually attracts a prison sentence of at least two years.
150 per day
The passengers were taken to a refugee processing centre at Eisenstadt.
The Austrian defence ministry says around 150 migrants arrive in Austria every day from Hungary — where most of them are registered — having travelled from Greece through Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Currently Austria is not sending any back to Hungary following a court decision last September that prevented an Afghan family being returned because of “inhumane conditions” in Hungary.
An Austrian interior ministry spokesman, Karl-Heinz Grundboeck, said however that this concerned an individual case and did not prevent people being sent back in the future.
Last week the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) sharply criticised Hungary for conditions at a makeshift transit camp on the border with Serbia for people waiting to be admitted into Hungarian “transit zones”.
“We remain concerned about Hungary's restrictive approaches and the dire situation asylum-seekers face outside the transit zones. Currently, only 15-17 people are admitted daily at each zone, leaving hundreds to suffer day and night without any proper support at the EU border,” said Samar Mazloum, head of UNHCR's local field office.
“The current approach makes it very easy for human traffickers to further exploit desperate refugees and pushes them to take more dangerous routes when legal ways are shut.”