Hungarian ambassador says Austrians not reassured by his explanation about released smugglers

May 24. 2023. – 10:32 AM


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The Hungarian ambassador in Vienna says that he was not summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry, but rather invited for consultations after the Austrians learned that Hungary had released foreign migrant smugglers and urged them to leave the country within 72 hours.

Andor Nagy reiterated to InfoRádió what Péter Szijjártó had said, namely that Hungary has the sovereign right to expel foreign citizens convicted of smuggling migrants who have been held in Hungarian prisons. The decision to do so was not directed against any neighbouring countries.

"The Austrians raised their eyebrows at the measure. When I was there, they told me that they found it upsetting that this had not been agreed in advance, as 700 people is a lot, a critical mass, they were not prepared for how many of them wanted to go to Austria. That was the reason for the meeting" Andor Nagy said.

According to the ambassador,

it never occurred to them "that someone would complain about this, we don't see this as harming anyone, and our decision was not directed against any of our neighbouring countries".

But the fact is, he explained, that there are about 2,400 prisoners in Hungarian prisons who have been convicted of human trafficking, which is almost 12-13% of the prison population. Additionally, they are expensive, we need interpreters to talk to them and "their complicated eating habits are difficult to adapt to".

According to Andor Nagy, the measure only applied to prisoners who had "very little left to serve". Under the measure, they have to return to the country they entered Hungary from, or the country of their origin, which is usually Ukraine, Serbia or Romania.

In any case, the sentences of those concerned were not remitted according to Nagy, and if they were caught again on smuggling charges, they would have to serve the remainder of their sentence in addition to the new one. In spite of this,

the ambassador doesn't think that he managed to reassure the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

Last weekend, Austria tightened border controls after it emerged that the Hungarian government was granting early release to foreign citizens who had been convicted of smuggling migrants and on Monday morning the Austrian Interior Ministry announced that Hungary's ambassador was invited for talks at the foreign ministry.

Prime Minister Gergely Gulyás justified the release of the traffickers by saying that keeping foreign criminals in prison was too expensive. Bence Rétvári took this one step further when he said that

“The EU isn't giving Hungary any money for either the costs of detaining traffickers or for building prisons. They do, however expect foreign human traffickers caught at the border to be detained in Hungarian prisons, at the expense of the Hungarian taxpayers.”

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