Austria: Interior minister wants tighter right of asylum

Migrants walk towards the Slovenian-Austrian border between Sentilj and Spielfeld on 24 October 2015. [GYORGY VARGA/EPA]

Austria is debating a host of measures proposed by the interior minister intended to tighten the right of asylum, so that procedures could be quicker and asylum-seekers checked more strictly. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The times of Austria being a country of asylum are over, at least if it is up to its interior minister, Herbert Kickl of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). He has presented a raft of measures to process asylum procedures more quickly, make residence conditions more difficult and take a rigorous approach to crimes.

“The message has to be that those not granted protection don’t have a chance in Austria. They don’t get an entrance card but a one-way ticket back home,” Kickl said.

Stricter application of asylum law

Accordingly, as of 1 March, there are no longer reception centres but only ‘departure centres’. Among those affected are the centres in Traiskirchen, south of Vienna, and Thalheim, near Salzburg. In these centres, the decision will be taken as to whether a Dublin procedure or a “fast-track-procedure,” following the Swiss model, will be used. Moreover, there is also to be thorough repatriation advice offered.

The whole process is to be tightened, meaning that asylum procedures will examine people’s identities but also their travel routes, and an assessment risk will also be produced.

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The pace will also be accelerated in the ‘departure centres’. For instance, asylum-seekers will be required to voluntarily declare their compliance with sleeping hours of between 10 pm and 6 am, with consequences for those who do not abide by this rule.

“People who do not accept this voluntary commitment for these establishments will be moved to locations away from major urban centres,” the interior minister said.

The length of procedures should also be cut. Currently, in first instance courts, they last three months on average, but there is an issue with the second instance. In order to speed this up, these procedures should be carried out directly in ‘departure centres’.

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The idea of “preventive detention” for dangerous asylum-seekers has been discussed for several days. The trigger was the murder of the head of a social welfare office in Voralberg by a Turkish asylum-seeker who had received an expulsion order from the same official years earlier.

However, the government needs a two-thirds majority for this provision, in other words, the support of at least one opposition party.

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However, support comes from outside the box in the form of future social democrat (SPÖ) state governor Hans-Peter Doskozil. He can envisage the measure being approved but would like to apply this protective custody not only to dangerous foreigners but also to Austrians.

Peter Kaiser, SPÖ governor for the state of Kärnten in southern Austria, dismissed Doskozil as an individual voice. This is not entirely true as both the leader of the SPÖ in Tyrol and, the SPÖ mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, who is important within the party, can certainly imagine such a measure, in accordance with all constitutional provisions.

Kickl does not see such protective custody as contravening EU law. He pointed out that, in the EU reception directive, the possibility of detention was envisaged for reasons of national security and protection of public order.

However, constitutional lawyers have expressed their concern. The Greens have warned against “security populism”, while the liberal NEOS party clearly opposed “preventive detention” because, it said, this was about the pillars of the rule of law.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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