Access to NGOs and UNHCR

Austria

Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 30/11/20

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Asylkoordination Österreich Visit Website

According to the law, UNHCR has access to all facilities and is allowed to get in contact with asylum seekers.[1] NGOs have contracts in 7 out of 9 federal provinces for providing social counselling and visit reception centres of the federal provinces regularly. In two federal provinces, Carinthia and Tyrol, the social advice is provided by the federal administration. NGOs that do not fall under such contracts must file an application at the responsible office of the federal province in order to be granted access and visit asylum seekers. Access to detention facilities is difficult for NGOs, insofar as they do not act as authorised legal representatives of asylum seekers. The two contracted organisations providing legal advice, ARGE Rechtsberatung and VMÖ, are bound by secrecy and are for this reason hindered from passing on information about clients to NGOs.

In 2019, restriction of freedom of movement was not considered as a major problem by NGOs to get in contact and provide assistance to asylum seekers, as long as they also received care by the federal province. However, NGOs noticed that fines have been imposed and those having received a final rejection of their asylum application are ordered to live in the return centre Fieberbrunn, which is located in a very remote area. Moreover, access of NGOs to the centre in Schwechat Airport was not allowed and did not provide a suitable room for private consultations.

The situation in the return centres of Fieberbrunn (Tyrol) and Schwechat (Lower Austria) attracted public interest as several rejected asylum seekers in Fieberbrunn initiated a hunger strike. Following the publication of several media articles as well as parliamentary requests and advocacy work, the Minister of Interior announced that a commission, composed of external experts and UNHCR, would evaluate the situation in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, especially in Fieberbrunn. An investigation was conducted and recommendations were published. The Ministry of Interior thus announced that it will follow the recommendations accordingly and monitor more closely the best interest of the child – meaning that, in the future, children should not be accommodated in Fieberbrunn and Schwechat but in another return centre which opened in Bad Kreuzen, Upper Austria, where they will be able to attend school. The Ministry of also announced it would organise more regular shuttle services per day from the Fieberbrunn centre to the village (as until now, there was only one shuttle per day).[2]

Despite the fact that the Ministry of Interior announced in November that first measures have already been implemented, observations show that in practice there are still children accommodated in Schwechat – a highly dysfunctional centre where they do not have access to schools. Moreover, while the concerned persons are not detained per se, they must stay in such centres for very long periods (if they leave, they will be considered as having absconded and basic care will thus be withdrawn). Austrian authorities are not able to obtain travel certificates for these asylum seekers for the purpose of deportation, who are left without a perspective. In the 2020-2024 coalition programme of the Government, it is stated that these type of return centres will be implemented and developed further in the future.[3]

 


[1]  Article 63(1) AsylG.

[2] Ministry of Interior, ‘Recommendations for human rights screening of return counselling services’, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2V7umVx.

[3] Austrian coalition programme 2020-2024, available in German at: https://bit.ly/376xseX, 197.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation