The Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for Basic Care during the admissibility procedure, subcontracts their day-to-day management to companies, while remaining the responsible authority. Until 2012, European Homecare, which is mainly active in Germany, was providing federal care to asylum seekers. Since 2012, ORS, a company running accommodation centres for asylum seekers in Switzerland, provides basic care in the reception centres under the responsibility of the Ministry.
Conditions in the reception centres of the federal provinces vary. According to the standards of the facility, NGOs or the landlord receive up to €21 per person a day for providing housing, food and other services like linen or washing powder. There are still some reception centres that get only €19 per person refunded due to low standards, e.g. because there is no living room or more people have to share the bathroom and toilet. A survey by journalists in summer 2014 showed big differences in the reception centres of three federal provinces.1 One of the centres was overcrowded, while others had severe sanitary problems and asylum seekers complained about the poor and unhealthy meals. Racist behaviour and bad conditions led to the closure of a reception centre in Lower Austria in September 2016 after years of complaints.2 The federal provinces agreed on minimum standards in September 2014.3 However, systematic research on conditions has not been undertaken in the last year.
Depending on the former use of the buildings, asylum seekers may live in an apartment and have their own kitchen and sanitary facilities, which is sometimes the case in former guest houses. Usually single persons share the room with other people. In most reception centres, asylum seekers have to keep their room clean, but they could also be responsible for keeping the floor, living rooms, toilets and showers clean. This work in the centre may also be remunerated from €3 to €5 per hour.
There is a trend of allowing asylum seekers to cook for themselves because it is evident that this contributes to the well-being of the asylum seeker and reduces tensions. In the reception centres of the state, cooking is not possible and even taking food into the living room or bedroom is not allowed. If meals are served, dietary or religious requirements have to be respected, but there are complaints about quality and some failures to take religious requirements into account.4 In Burgenland and Styria, meals are often served by the centre, while in Tyrol asylum seekers can cook in the reception centres.
The amount given to asylum-seekers if meals are not provided differ in the federal provinces. Burgenland, Carinthia, Upper Austria, Tyrol und Vorarlberg give a lower amount for the nutrition of children (€80-100), while other federal provinces make no difference between minors and adults. In Styria asylum seekers in reception centres get €150 for subsistence but are no longer entitled to €40 pocket money, which means that in fact the monthly amount for food is €110. In Tyrol adult asylum seekers are given € 200 to organise meals by themselves.
A monthly amount of €10 is foreseen in the Basic Care agreement for leisure activities in reception centres. This is partly used for German language classes. Because administration of this benefit is very bureaucratic, it is not often used.
Hotels and inns usually do not have staff besides personnel for the kitchen, administration and maintenance of the buildings. These reception centres are visited by social workers, most of them staff of NGOs, on a regular basis (every week or every second week). Reception centres of NGOs have offices in the centres. The capacities foreseen by law – 1 social worker for 140 clients - are not sufficient, especially when social workers have to travel to facilities in remote areas or need the assistance of an interpreter. NGOs work with trained staff. Some of the landlords host asylum seekers since many years and may have learned by doing, but have not received specific training.
The system of dispersal of asylum seekers to all federal provinces and within the federal provinces to all districts results in reception centres being located in remote areas. One of these centres in the mountains of Tyrol, a former military camp, cannot be reached by public transport, a shuttle bus brings the asylum seekers two times a week to the next village, two and a half hour walking distance. Internet is accessible in the meanwhile.5
- 1. Dossier, ‘Asyl – Ein Jahr Danach’, 3 November 2014, available here: http://bit.ly/1cyZZNB, contains reports on each of about 100 facilities visited.
- 2. Profil, ‘Flüchtlingsheim in Annaberg: Ein Haus mit schiefem Segen’, 26 September 2016, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2kRZAOo.
- 3. Mindeststandards betreffend die Unterbringung in der Grundversorgung in Österreich (Minimum standards for hosting in Basic Care in Austria, 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1ZdoiUP.
- 4. Dossier, ‘Asyl – Ein Jahr Danach’, 3 November 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1cyZZNB.
- 5. Profil, ‘Nächtlicher Angriff auf Asylwerber in tiroler Bergen (Attack on asylum seeker in the mountains of Tyrol in the night)’ 30 October 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1G8a8MZ.