Conditions in detention facilities


Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 05/05/23


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There were still important differences between the different detention facilities in 2021. 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”. BBU GmbH does offers legal counselling for detainees who also have to undergo return counselling by another department of the BBU GmbH. NGOs receive no funding and are not regularly present in detention centres. 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 is the institution designed to promote the Austrian National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).  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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] As the Court consulted a Court certified expert, the decision has not been issued yet and is expected to become available in 2023.

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.) [4] These recommendations had not been implemented as of 2022. There are no signs that any reform in the area of detention of foreigners is planned in the new future.




[1] Fundamental Rights Agency, Migration Bulletin 4, November 2020,

[2] OHCHR, Report of mission to Austria focusing on the human rights situation of migrants, particularly in the context of return, October 2018,

[3] Der Standard, ‚Todesfall in Schubhaftzentrum: Diakonie will Aufklärung‘, 13 June 2019, available in German at:

[4] AOB, Annual Report 2017, available at:

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