Austria Strengthens Efforts Against Trafficking of Human Beings on the Hungarian-Serbian Border

PeopleOther ♦ Published: July 19, 2022; 17:50 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria is engaged against anti-smuggling and human trafficking on the Hungarian-Serbian border and sent representatives of the Austrian Ministry of Interior to Hungary. The Director General for Public Security, Franz Ruf, and the Head of the Office against Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings at the Federal Criminal Police Office, Gerald Tatzgern, exchanged information with the Hungarian police there.

Austria's Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (r.) and Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin (l.). / Picture: © BMI Bundesministerium für Inneres / Gerd Pachauer

The representatives should assess the situation development in coordination talks with the Hungarian border police. Likewise, according to Austria's (BMI) Interior Ministry, a structured exchange took place with investigators on the Hungarian side.

Austria's strict course against illegal migration continues to be driven by the Austrian government and the Ministry of Interior intensifies its efforts against illegal migration and human trafficking.

The situation at the Hungarian-Serbian border

In recent weeks, the situation at the Hungarian-Serbian border has worsened according to BMI. Pressure due to an increased number of migrants crossing the border and the increased activities of the smuggling mafia worsen the situation, according to BMI.

These factors culminated in the killing of an illegal migrant on July 3, 2022, according to BMI. The illegal migrant was killed during clashes between rival criminal groups, and eight other migrants were injured, some of them seriously.

The so-called trafficking mafia consists as a part of organized crime. Their criminal activities are mainly concentrated in smuggling and human trafficking. The Serbian police, therefore, acted against these criminal groups in a concerted effort. Numerous firearms (automatic weapons and pistols) were seized, as well as knives and machetes. A total of 40 people were arrested in a concerted action by special units of the Serbian executive.

Austria supports Hungary with equipment and material

Interior Minister Gerhard Karner held talks with his Hungarian counterpart Sándor Pintér on 11 July 2022 on the fringes of the EU Council of Interior Ministers in Prague. According to BMI, Karner offered Hungary further support in the form of equipment and material.

Currently, the Austrian contingent fighting cross-border crime on the border with Romania and Serbia has two thermal imaging buses, four thermal imaging cameras and five all-terrain vehicles in operation.

In the fight against the trafficking of human beings and illegal migration, close cooperation with Hungary proved to be a crucial factor, according to Austria’s Interior Minister Karner. According to BMI, the Austrian police officers support the Hungarian police not only through mixed patrols on Hungarian territory but also in protecting the external border with Serbia.

In addition, the two interior ministers agreed to continue the mixed patrols on Hungarian territory in the border area with Austria in this form and to carry out further priority actions. The deployment of these mixed patrols has been strengthened only in May 2022. In June alone, these patrols carried out 15 focal operations, arresting 18 traffickers. At the same time, around 250 illegal migrants were stopped.

There is also deployment of mixed patrols at the EU external border with Serbia. Hungary’s Interior Minister Pintér also reported on the sidelines of the EU Council of Interior Ministers that a total of 108,000 migrants had attempted to cross the border with Hungary by June 2022 alone. In the entire previous year, the figure would have been 121,000. Pintér announced that the operation at the EU's external border with Serbia would be further strengthened.

Serbia will also receive more support from Austria, and Serbia's Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Austria's Interior Minister Karner have met several times in recent months to assure each other of mutual support.

Investigators from the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office will take part in an investigators' conference in Serbia at the end of July/beginning of August 2022 and coordinate further investigative steps.

Austria wants to increase its activities with Hungarian and Serbian security forces to combat the human trafficking of migrants. Migrants are often exploited by criminal enterprises and human trafficking is becoming more of an issue at the border between Hungary and Serbia, according to the BMI.

BMI - Austrian Ministry of the Interior