School attendance is mandatory for all children living permanently in Austria until they have finished 9 classes, which are usually completed at the age of 15. Asylum seeking children attend primary and secondary school after their asylum application has been admitted to the regular procedure. As long as they reside in the EAST, school attendance in public schools is not provided, however. Preparatory classes usually are set up where many children without knowledge of the German language attend class, otherwise they are assisted by a second teacher. Schools often register pupils without sufficient knowledge of the German language as extraordinary pupils for a maximum period of 12 months.
Access to education for asylum seekers older than 15 may become difficult, however, as schooling is not compulsory after the age of 15. Some pupils manage to continue their education in high schools. Children who did not attend the mandatory school years in Austria have difficulties in continuing their education, however. For those unaccompanied children, who have not successfully finished the last mandatory school year, special courses are available free of charge. For children accompanied by their family, this possibility is often not available for free.
The Aliens Employment Act restricts access to vocational training, because the necessary work permits could only be issued for seasonal work. In July 2012, however, exceptions were introduced for asylum seeking children up to the age of 18. A decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs allowed for children to obtain a work permit as apprentices in professions where there is a shortage of workers.1 Yet this measure proved to be insufficient in ensuring vocational training, as only 18 children have received such a permit since July 2012. A further decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs of March 2013 increased the maximum age for benefitting from the exceptions to vocational training restrictions from 18 to 25.2
Young people under the age of 18 who have completed the 9-year schooling and who are permanent residents in Austria are obliged to pursue education or training, under a law entering into force on 1 August 2016. This law, however, is not applied to asylum seekers, despite criticism from NGOs and the Chamber of Employment for failing to address a problematic aspect of integration and education policy.3
- 1. Asylkoordination, Expansion of employment opportunities for asylum seekers, 14 June 2012, available in German at: http://bit.ly/1k7cAuY.
- 2. Austrian Employment Office, Beschäftigungsmöglichkeiten für Asylwerberinnen und Asylwerber, November 2015, available in German at: http://bit.ly/1msi8SL.
- 3. Employment Office of Upper Austria, ‘Ausbildungspflicht bis 18: AK fordert Nachbesserungen’, 19 August 2016, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2kNmJSc.