Freedom of movement

Austria

Country Report: Freedom of movement Last updated: 30/11/20

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Asylkoordination Österreich Visit Website

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.[1] 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.

 

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.

 

Dispersal across federal provinces

 

A residence restriction applies since 1 November 2017. Asylum seekers who have been admitted to the regular procedure are only allowed to reside in the federal province assigned to them. In cases where Basic Care is waived or withdrawn, they are not allowed to change federal provinces without authorisation from the provincial administration. Consecutive breaches of the residence restriction are punishable by an administrative fine of up to €5,000 or a three-week non-custodial sentence.[4] Asylum seekers can be arrested and detained for 24 hours to secure this administrative fine.[5] Since a law amendment that entered into force on 1 September 2018, the residence restriction was lifted for persons with subsidiary protection status.

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.

The distribution of Basic Care recipients – including some beneficiaries of protection – across the provinces at the end of 2019 was as follows:

 

Dispersal of recipients of Basic Care: 31 December 2019

Federal province

Quota

 

Total number of recipients

Number of asylum applicants

Actual share

Vienna

21.24%

11,618

3,918

39.35%

Upper Austria

16.71%

4,535

3,398

15.36%

Lower Austria

19.01%

3,599

2,856

12.19%

Styria

14.12%

3,142

2,370

10.64%

Tyrol

8.5%

2,010

1,531

6.8%

Carinthia

6.4%

1,410

973

4.78%

Salzburg

6.26%

1,375

1,066

4.66%

Vorarlberg

4.43%

1,061

514

3.6%

Burgenland

3.33%

774

590

2.62%

Total Provinces

100%

29.524

17.216

100%

EAST East

988

844

EAST West

366

253

Total

 

30.878

18.313

Source: Basic care information system, unpublished. Figures on quota and actual share refer to the total number of recipients of basic care.

 

Many basic care facilities, which were opened in 2016, are now vacant and are being used as preventive centres, while others have been closed completely. As of August 2017, the Ministry of Interior had established 32 reception centers, but their number was reduced to 20 centers as of July 2018. Out of them, 3 centers are special care units, 3 are initial reception centers, 7 are distribution centers and 7 are federal reception centres.[6] However, given the low occupation in these centers, the Ministry of Interior has announced that 7 out of the 20 federal centres will be closed until the end of 2019.[7] 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.[8]

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 2019.

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.



[1] Article 15b AsylG, in force since 1 November 2017.

[2] Article 43(1) BFA-VG.

[3] Article 2(1)(2) GVG-B.

[4] Article 121(1a) FPG.

[5] Article 39 FPG.

[6]  Ministry of Interior, Answer to parliamentarian request, No 3235/AB-BR/2018, 31 July 2018, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2IcUgm3.

[7]  Der Standard, Jede dritte Asyl-Erstbetreuungsstelle soll geschlossen werden, 1 October 2018, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2S1ZrEI.

[8] Ministry of Interior, Answer to parliamentary request, 3837/AB, XXVI. GP, 16 August 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2PH2WCd.

 

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