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, freedom of movement was restricted in 1,154 cases and a procedural order following Art 15b AslyG was issued. There is no available information on the reasons for the restriction. There is no data available for 2022 at the time of writing.
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
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. Upon taking office, 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. These ongoing talks have not led to any results in practice yet, however.
The distribution of Basic Care recipients – including some beneficiaries of protection – across the provinces as of 31 December 2022 was as follows:
|Dispersal of recipients of Basic Care: 31 December 2022|
|Federal province||Quota||Total number of recipients||Actual share|
|Total federal reception facilities (EAST)||–||7,576||–|
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 announced in 2019 that 7 out of the 20 remaining federal centres would be closed by 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. Due to the reluctance of the provinces to take over persons already admitted to the procedure to the province basic care system, the BBU GmbH had to reopen all possible accommodations to meet the needs and the legal obligations concerning the Covid-19-pandemic. Thus, at the end of 2021, there were 24 federal facilities (2020: 13) accommodating a total of 4,239 (2020: 1,750) persons, while the maximum capacity reached 6,898. At the end of 2022, 27 federal facilities with a maximum capacity of 8,000 were in use. During the reception crisis from October until December 2022, the BBU GmbH built up tents in 4 locations to house asylum seekers. The crisis was a result of a lack of cooperation of the provinces that failed to take over asylum seekers after their admissibility procedure was completed. This led to a backlog of over 8,500 asylum seekers in federal accommodation facilities. The inadequate reception conditions in the tents caused a public uproar.
The province of Vienna offers many more reception places than those foreseen by the quota system (see Types of Accommodation), while all other provinces 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. During the first months of operation of the BBU GmbH as federal basic care provider, the communication between the actors has improved. However, following increasing numbers of applicants, this positive trend stopped and resulted in overcrowded federal reception centres. In October 2021, the CEO of BBU GmbH resigned “at his own will” even though his 5-year contract had been renewed in May 2021. He withdrew his resignation in December 2021. Following unconfirmed reports, the resignation had its reason in the interference of the Minister of Interior in the area of Basic Care, which hindered adequate management.
Following the rising number of asylum applications in 2021, the BBU agency faced difficulties in dealing with Covid 19 related challenges (such as the need for more room due to distancing rules) the lack of capacity in reception centres. The state-run agency had to reopen facilities which were shut down in 2017/18 and additionally opened new facilities, including due to the significant increase in the number of unaccompanied minors who were mostly accommodated in the reception centre of Traiskirchen
NGOs in the federal provinces reported several communication problems with the Basic Care Department of BBU GmbH. This concerned issues relating to the transition of people from reception centres to basic care facilities in the provinces, as there was a general lack of information about people with special needs and/or mental health issues. There was thus no transfer to specialised and dedicated facilities and, instead, vulnerable groups were transferred to regular facilities which overburdened the relevant staff increased logistical difficulties due to a lack of adequate equipment and infrastructure, incl. inadequate transport means (often occurring in the middle of the night and thus with no available staff upon arrival). In some cases, individuals were allocated to federal states without proper identification (i.e. the white card granted to asylum seekers upon registration). As regards the clothing allowance (€ 150,-/per person and year); most of it was spent quickly by the BBU agency, which hindered asylum seekers from receiving additional support from NGOs and led to frustration as they did not understand the functioning of the system. NGOs tried to secure clothes by way of donations but the resources remain limited and the agency is not officially allowed to accept donations. The specific issue of clothing was flagged to the agency which is trying to find a solution.
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 to do 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.
Many people who have lost their basic care benefits move on to Vienna with the hope to access basic care in the capital. A major point of contact for them is the Caritas asylum center, which encourages readmissions in federal states and tries to ensure at least access to health insurance. In practice, only two reasons are accepted for a change of federal state: either because there are family members in another federal state or due to medical reasons. In addition, LGBTIQ persons are usually allowed to be transferred to Vienna, where the NGO Queer Base in Vienna povides support.
People who move on their own to another federal province without asking for permission are likely to lose their basic care benefits in their former federal province. In some federal states like Lower Austria and Salzburg people get ‘Quartier unstet’ Status in the GVS BIS System, which means that they are still health insured but have no access to accommodation or other benefits. As a result, it is hard to receive basic care again and applicants have to prove that they still need assistance. This also applies to LGBTIQ cases or people with relevant health or mental issues.
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 three days, 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.
 Article 43(1) BFA-VG.
 Article 2(1)(2) GVG-B.
 Minstry of Interior, “Geschäftsführer Achrainer zieht sich aus der Bundesagentur für Betreuungs- und Unterstützungsleistungen GmbH (BBU) zurück”, 11 October 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3KClOg0.
 Die Presse, “Wieder mehr Flüchtlinge in Europa”, 26 February 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/34FpAFV; Wiener Zeitung, “Der fast unbemerkte Crash im Asylwesen”, 18 October 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3HJWFie.
 Nationwide NGO survey on basic services Dec 21/Jan 22 asylkoordination österreich, unpublished.