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Refugee policies - Austria

Austria’s domestic #asylum politics have long been overshadowed by a divisive and bitter public debate over the treatment of refugees. The main legislation concerning asylum is the Asylum Act, 2005, where amendments have been made to restrict international protection due to security reasons.

#Austria hosts more than 1,46,000 #refugees, most of which are from #Syria and #Afghanistan. However, among the governmental officials, there is no uniformity on whether the country is welcoming refugees or not. During the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the President of Austria welcomed refugees, but Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was against accepting them. The current Chancellor Karl Nehammer is an #immigration hardliner.

It is hard to say whether Austria’s asylum policies are in consonance with the European Convention on Human Rights. There have been cases of well-integrated refugees being deported despite well-founded fear of persecution, as well as asylum applications being rejected on a continuous basis.

Since 2015, almost 47,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in Austria, with a total of almost 194,000 claims from all countries. Almost half of them have been rejected. There were also reports of six male refugees being #deported, driving them to attempt suicide.

There have also been cases of #homosexual refugees rejected because for not acting as per their apparent or stereotypical secondary characteristics.

In 2018, Austria banned refugees, but not third country workers, from taking up apprenticeships.

The number of asylum seekers has been decreasing compared to other categories of migrants. In 2018, there were 44% fewer applications than in 2017. In 2019, there were 12,511 applications for political asylum, most of them from Afghanistan and Syria, followed by Somalia, Iran, Iraq and the Russian Federation. The number of unaccompanied minors has also decreased from 1,352 in 2017 to 390 in 2018, which makes up 2.8% of asylum seekers.

However, the number of asylum seekers held in detention centres in Vordernberg and Vienna is increasing: from 2015 to 2018, the annual number of detainees in Austria has more than tripled from 1,436 to 5,252.

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