The freedom of movement of asylum seekers may be restricted for reasons of public order, public interest, or for the swift processing of the asylum application. Applicants coming from a Safe Country of Origin or those who received a return decision before making are an application may be affected. The necessity of assigned residence must be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis. However, this restriction on freedom of movement is not a formal decision that can be appealed per se; it can only be challenged together with the asylum decision.
In 2020, the freedom of movement was restricted in 1,154 cases and a procedural order following Art 15b AslyG was issued. There is no avail ale information on the reasons for the restriction.
Restricted movement during the admissibility procedure
After requesting asylum at the police, asylum seekers are apprehended for up to 48 hours, until the BFA branch office decides whether the asylum seeker should be transferred or advised to go to an initial reception centre or to a distribution centre. During the admissibility procedure, they receive a green card also known as procedure card, which indicates the tolerated stay in the district of the reception centre of the state. Asylum seekers are allowed to leave the district for necessary medical treatment or to appear in court. Dublin cases that are usually cared for in the initial reception centres of the Ministry of Interior may also be transferred to reception centres of the federal provinces. Violations of this restriction of movement may be punished with fines varying between €100 and €1,000 or with detention of up to 2 weeks if payment of the fine cannot be enforced. These restrictions of movement limit the access of asylum seekers to family members, friends and lawyers.
Asylum seekers whose application is admitted to the regular procedure receive the white card, which is valid until the final decision on the application and allows free movement in the entire territory of Austria.In the airport procedure, asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the designated area in the airport facilities onto Austrian territory. However, they remain free to leave by plane to another country.
Dispersal across federal provinces
A residence restriction was applied from November 2017 to September 2018. Asylum seekers who were admitted to the regular procedure were only allowed to reside in the federal province assigned to them. In cases where Basic Care was waived or withdrawn, they were not allowed to change federal provinces without authorisation from the provincial administration. Consecutive breaches of the residence restriction was punishable by an administrative fine of up to €5,000 or a three-week non-custodial sentence. Asylum seekers could be arrested and detained for 24 hours to secure this administrative fine. Since a law amendment that entered into force on 1 September 2018, the residence restriction was lifted for persons with subsidiary protection status. The residence restriction was never applied to refugees, however.
Every federal province has to offer reception places according to its population. Asylum seekers are spread throughout the country to free reception places and according to their needs, for instance in places for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, single women or handicapped persons. Governments of federal provinces have claimed that information about necessary medical treatment or handicap are not always communicated, with the result that asylum seekers are transferred to inadequate places. However, asylum seekers have no possibility to choose the place where they will be accommodated according to the dispersal mechanism, although family ties are usually taken into consideration. Moreover, it is not possible to appeal the dispersal decision because it is an informal decision taken between the Ministry of Interior and the respective federal province. It should be noted that there have been some positive signals from the CEO of the BBU GmbH to improve the clearing phase at the start of the reception process with the aim to detect vulnerabilities and to better communicate with the authorities providing basic care in the provinces.
The distribution of Basic Care recipients – including some beneficiaries of protection – across the provinces as of 21 January 2021 was as follows:
|Dispersal of recipients of Basic Care: 21 January 2021|
|Total number of recipients||Number of asylum applicants||Actual share|
Source: Basic care information system, unpublished. Figures on quota and actual share refer to the total number of recipients of basic care.
While in 2017, 32 reception centres were in operation, the Ministry of Interior has announced in 2019 that 7 out of the 20 remaining federal centres will be closed until the end of 2019. In July 2019, only 11 federal centres were in use, with a total capacity of 2,203. Only 868 persons were accommodated in these centres as of July 2019. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic only 10 centres were operating. Reluctantly, the Ministry of Interior had to open two facilities in Villach and Vienna. Thus, at the end of 2020, there were 13 federal facilities accommodating a total of 1,750 persons, while the maximum capacity reached 4,338 places.
The province of Vienna offers many more reception places than those foreseen by the quota system (see Types of Accommodation), while other provinces such as Lower Austria have failed to provide enough places for several years. This discrepancy leads to negotiations between the responsible departments of the federal provinces, while the malfunctioning of the dispersal system overall raises public reactions. However, the malfunctioning of the dispersal system persisted in 2020. During its first months of its activities as basic care provider, the BBU GmbH seems to have improved the communication between the different actors and the number of transfers seems to have increased.
Asylum seekers who are allocated to a province after admission to the asylum procedure are usually not transferred to other federal provinces, even if they wish so. Within the same province, asylum seekers may be placed in other reception centres for different reasons, for instance if another reception centre is better equipped to address the needs of the asylum seeker.
Often asylum seekers do not have enough money for travelling, as the monthly allowance for those living in reception centres is only €40. If they stay away from their designated place (reception facility) without permission for more than two nights, Basic Care will be withdrawn (see Reduction or Withdrawal of Material Reception Conditions). As discussed above, it is almost impossible to receive Basic Care in a province other than the designated province.
If grounds for detention of asylum seekers arise, an alternative to detention should be prioritised if there is no risk of absconding. Due to reporting duties – often imposed every day – and exclusion from pocket money allowance, however, asylum seekers subjected to alternatives to detention are in practice not able to make use of their freedom of movement.
 Article 15b AsylG, in force since 1 November 2017.
 Ministry of Interior, Answer to parliamentary request 5038/AB, XXVII. GP, 17 March 2021.
 Article 43(1) BFA-VG.
 Article 2(1)(2) GVG-B.
 Article 121(1a) FPG.
 Article 39 FPG.
 Der Standard, Jede dritte Asyl-Erstbetreuungsstelle soll geschlossen werden, 1 October 2018, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2S1ZrEI.