Austria Plans to Build Prison in Romania

Views on BG | February 13, 2004, Friday // 00:00

Deustche Welle

Calling it a way to save taxpayers' money, the Austrian government plans to build a prison in Romania and deport Romanian criminals immediately to their home country. Critics say the proposal has "a touch of xenophobia."

Anyone flying over the prison in the western Romanian town of Timisoara might notice that the buildings' shape resembles the letters "MT." They stand for Maria Theresia, the 18th century Austrian empress who ruled the region at the time of the prison's construction.

Dieter Bцhmdorfer is unlikely to receive this honour, but he's set to become the next Austrian responsible for a new prison built on Romanian soil. By doing so, Bцhmdorfer, who serves as his country's justice minister, wants to save taxpayers' money.

About 375 Romanians are currently imprisoned in Austria and cost the state about EUR 13.5 M (USD 17.3 M) per year. That's 10 times the amount Austria would have to pay to house them in prisons back home. The deal could be finalized as early as March.

Crime rate endangers Romania's EU application

The government also sees the plan as a way to deal with a 50 percent increase in the number of Romanian crime suspects in Austria last year. Ministers blame this on the abolishment of visa requirements for Romanians to enter the EU in 2002. The Austrian government has already threatened to veto Romania's application to join the union in 2007 because of rising crime rates.

Bцhmdorfer, who represents the populist right-wing Freedom Party (FPЦ), also wants to deport Romanians who have confessed a crime immediately to their home country and send along any evidence so that they can stand trial there. Rejecting calls by FPЦ politicians to set up similar programs with Turkey and Nigeria, Bцhmdorfer told reporters that Austria will have to make sure criminals are tried and - if necessary - jailed according to Austrian standards.

The Romanian government, which is also talking to Italy about setting up a similar agreement, has welcomed the idea, saying that the country could use another prison. Besides, the social reintegration of criminals would be easier if they served their time close to relatives, Romanian Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu said.

Critics question prison standards

Critics of the plan agree but question whether a Romanian prison can live up to Austrian standards. "They have inmates sharing beds," Michaela Klemens of Amnesty International's Austrian division told AP news service. "We have to make sure that the European human rights convention is honored. We cannot say, 'Let's just move them back home, get them out of our jurisdiction and then bye-bye.'"

Austrian opposition members have also criticized the plan as "absurd and pointless," saying that Austria could not just build a prison and then hand it over to the Romanians. Deporting people for petty crimes to their home country also had a "touch of xenophobia," Hannes Jarolim, a legal expert for the Social Democrats (SPЦ), said according to German public television.

We need your support so can keep delivering news and information about Bulgaria! Thank you!

Views on BG » Be a reporter: Write and send your article
Advertisement All Are Welcome! Join Now!
Bulgaria news (Sofia News Agency - is unique with being a real time news provider in English that informs its readers about the latest Bulgarian news. The editorial staff also publishes a daily online newspaper "Sofia Morning News." (Sofia News Agency - and Sofia Morning News publish the latest economic, political and cultural news that take place in Bulgaria. Foreign media analysis on Bulgaria and World News in Brief are also part of the web site and the online newspaper. News Bulgaria