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Swiss decide against Romanian prison project

Blocher (left) and his Austrian counterpart, Dieter Böhmdorfer Keystone

Switzerland has chosen not to participate in Austria’s plans to build a prison in Romania.

This content was published on May 17, 2004 - 16:57

However, Justice Minister Christoph Blocher said Switzerland was still considering whether to repatriate foreign inmates in Swiss custody.

Austria and Romania have signed an agreement to send Romanian prisoners home to serve their sentences in an Austrian-funded prison.

Possible Swiss involvement in the project was discussed during talks in Vienna between Blocher and his Austrian counterpart, Dieter Böhmdorfer.

“Those [Romanians] imprisoned here aren’t a priority,” said Blocher.

He added that Switzerland was still interested in following up the Austrian idea of building prisons in other countries though he would not specify where.

“We still have to discuss it with the authorities in these countries,” said Blocher, who added that Switzerland had a higher proportion of foreign prisoners than Austria.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, Switzerland has 3,500 foreign inmates out of a total prison population of 5,000.

Blocher has already made it clear that Switzerland should look for alternative solutions.

Lower costs

Largely for financial reasons, the Austrian government has decided to fund the building of a prison in Romania.

The number of Romanian inmates in Austrian jails has nearly tripled since 2001 and now totals 144.

The Austrian government says each prisoner costs the government around €100 (SFr155) per day. It is estimated that costs in Romania would be just a tenth of this figure.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, 28 Romanian nationals were locked up in Swiss prisons in 2003 - up from 25 in 2002.

Prisoners

The Swiss parliament, in line with 32 other countries, signed the Council of Europe’s additional protocol to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons at the end of last year.

Under the protocol, due to come into effect later this year, the government will be able to forcibly repatriate foreign nationals to complete their sentence.

One condition is that human rights are respected in the country of return.

Until now, Switzerland has sent home only those detainees who agreed to the move.

During his visit to Vienna, Blocher also discussed the Schengen accord on cross-border crime and the need for close cooperation, particularly on exchanging data.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

In brief

Austria and Romania have signed an agreement to repatriate Romanian prisoners, which will come into effect later this year.

The Swiss parliament signed the Council of Europe’s additional protocol to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons at the end of last year.

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