Conditions in detention facilities

Austria

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 08/04/21

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Asylkoordination Österreich Visit Website

There were still important differences between the different detention facilities in 2020. While no major dysfunction or maladministration was reported in Vordernberg, there have been only few positive developments in the two major Viennese detention facilities. Of particular concern is the fact that people are still being detained in cells during the day, instead of open areas.

Although social counselling is not foreseen in practice, the information leaflet provided to detainees mentions that activities take place in the centre such as “social counselling”. NGOs receive funding under AMIF to provide advice on voluntary return in detention centres. VMÖ provides such advice in the detention centres in Vienna, Vordernberg. VMÖ is present in detention centres on a regular basis. Furthermore, asylum seekers and other foreigners subject to a removal order are visited by the appointed legal adviser, to assist with the appeal against the rejection of the asylum application, removal order or complaints against the detention order. UNHCR is not regularly present in detention centres.

The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been responsible for protecting and promoting human rights in the Republic of Austria since 1 July 2012; and to further provide figures as the Austrian National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). In 2017, the NPM Commissions conducted 21 visits, including to police detention centres, the Vordernberg detention centre, the Eisenstadt competence centre and the Zinnergasse family shelter. In 2018 the NPM published a report in which it criticised the detention conditions in police detention centres.[1] In its report, the NPM made several recommendations on the detention in single cells and specially secured cells, on the detention of persons awaiting their forced return in open centres, as well as on visiting rules and visiting hours. The NPM found that the recommendations of May 2016 had not been fully implemented in 2017.  The commission of the AOB can visit detention centres at any time. During the first months of COVID-19 in 2020, however, they had to suspend their visits to detention centres. After the lockdown, they resumed their visits to police detention centres and identified challenges regarding visiting modalities, staffing level, solitary confinement and access to the yard.[2]

Medical treatment is provided in all detention centres by medical staff. Special treatment may be organised by transferring detainees to hospitals. In the detention centres in Vienna, psychiatric treatment is provided. In Vienna, detainees on hunger strike may be transferred to the medical station of the prison, but forced feeding is not allowed. In case there is a high probability of a health risk due to hunger strike, asylum seekers are usually released from detention. Detainees on hunger strike should only be placed in isolation if the necessary medical treatment cannot be provided at the open detention center. In Vordernberg, there are two types of doctors: doctors who work alongside police authorities and help determining whether detention can be continued or not, and regular doctors who only provide care to the detainees. The system of having different doctors should be extended to other detention facilities, but is not applied in practice yet. The AOB (NPM) has further criticised the fact that medical treatment is not provided immediately in cases of mental illness or suicide risk.

As of the end of 2020, there was still no mechanism to identify vulnerable people in detention centres, which is a serious issue that was also highlighted by the mission report of the OHCHR in October 2018.[3] The conditions in the detention centres in Vienna Hernalser Gürtel and Vienna Rossauer Lände are particularly inappropriate, due to structural dysfunctions and cases of maladministration. In June 2019, a Hungarian detainee died in the detention centre Vienna Rossauer Lände centre. He was 58 years old and in a critical health situation. Criminal proceedings against the officials and doctors employed in the detention centre have been initiated and further aim to determine whether the circumstances of detention were lawful or not.[4] Decisions are expected to be issued in 2021.[5]

In its 2017 Annual Report that was published in 2018, the AOB formulated a list of recommendations necessary for the improvement of the detention facilities, which include inter alia the necessity of establishing single cells, providing adequate access to medical care, ensuring adequate detention conditions (e.g. natural light, ventilation, hygienic measures, visits etc.) [6] These recommendations have not been implemented in 2020, however.

 

[1]   AOB, Annual Report 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2SLaenu.

[2] Fundamental Rights Agency, Migration Bulletin 4, November 2020, https://bit.ly/3qmLzXa.

[3]  OHCHR, Report of mission to Austria focusing on the human rights situation of migrants, particularly in the context of return, October 2018, https://bit.ly/2TfscSi.

[4] Der Standard, ‚Todesfall in Schubhaftzentrum: Diakonie will Aufklärung‘, 13 June 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2vCoPvR.

[5]  Ministry of Interior, Answer to a parliamentary request, 460AB/XXVII. GP, 28 February 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3b2ld5w.

[6]   AOB, Annual Report 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2SLaenu.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation