The Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for Basic Care during the admissibility procedure, subcontracts their day-to-day management to a company, while remaining the responsible authority. ORS, a company running accommodation centres for asylum seekers in Switzerland, provides Basic Care in the reception centres under the responsibility of the Ministry. This company was criticised because it generated considerable profits through the care of needy asylum seekers. As already mentioned, a new Federal Agency (the BBU) will take over the activities related to reception as of 1 July 2020, but it is still unclear how this will be implemented in practice. Due to the recent government turmoil and early elections, the start of the activities of the federal agency will be postponed to December 2020.
Conditions in the reception centres of the federal provinces vary, but they have constantly improved along with the decrease of persons staying in the centres Moreover, a decrease of reception capacity at federal state level is expected in the future, given the upcoming establishment of the Federal Agency (BBU-GmbH) as well as the possibility for the BFA to decide on the merits during admissibility procedures, thus allowing the authorities to keep applicants in the federal basic care. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Interior hesitated to re-open facilities that used to function as reception centres during 2015-2016 due to local protests. This led to high numbers of persons accommodated in the EAST Ost in Traiskirchen which increased the infection risk inside the facility. Due to poor COVID-19 management, the whole centre was put under quarantine in May 2020 with important restrictions for residents. This led to the fact that over 600 inhabitants of the camp were not allowed to leave the centre for more than one month. In two cases, the decree restricting the freedom of movement of asylum seekers was challenged and is currently under review in front of the Constitutional Court.
Systematic research on the standards in the basic care system of the federal provinces has not been carried out in recent years. In 2015, the search platform ‘Dossier.at’, who had reported the maladministration in asylum accommodations, was sentenced for entering a private property without permission. The judges dealt only with the question of whether asylum seekers have the right to receive visitors, without informing the administration. The Court concluded that journalists had to obtain permission from the federal province to enter the property. The asylum seekers’ right to visit, the freedom of the press and the interest of the public in the conditions of asylum accommodations were ignored.
The Regional Ministers on Integration agreed on a common recommendation on a minimum standard of 8m2 for each person and 4m2 for each additional person in September 2014. Systematic research on reception conditions has not been undertaken in recent years.
Depending on the buildings, asylum seekers may live in an apartment and have their own kitchen and sanitary facilities, which is sometimes the case in former guesthouses. Usually single persons share the room with other people. In most reception centres, asylum seekers are responsible for keeping their rooms and the common areas clean, and in some cases this can be remunerated (from €2,5 to €5 per hour).
There is a tendency of allowing asylum seekers to cook themselves as it contributes to their well-being and reduces tensions. In the reception centres of the state, cooking or taking food into the living room or bedroom is not allowed.
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, especially for German language classes. However, this is not often used in practice mainly due to administrative obstacles.
Hotels and inns usually do not have staff trained to adequately welcome asylum seekers. These reception centres are, however, visited by social workers (e.g. NGO staff) on a regular basis (every week or every second week). Reception centres of NGOs have offices in the centres. The law foresees that there should be 1 social worker for 140 clients, which is not sufficient, especially when social workers have to travel to facilities located in remote areas or need the assistance of an interpreter. NGOs work with trained staff. Some landlords have been hosting asylum seekers for many years, but as opposed to NGO staff they have not received any 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 is located in the mountains of Tyrol, as part of a former military camp. It cannot be reached by public transport and a shuttle bus brings the asylum seekers to the next village only twice a week. The walking distance to the next village is about two and a half hour. Access to internet is provided in the centre. The centre was closed by the Tyrolian government but was reopened by the Ministry of Interior to operate as a reception centre for rejected asylum seekers.
In June 2019, several persons accommodated in this federal centre in Tyrol entered in a hunger strike which caused public uproar. The Ministry of Interior subsequently conducted a human rights assessment in cooperation with UNHCR concerning the reception conditions of the centres in Tyrol and Schwechat, which mainly host rejected asylum seekers who ca not be deported. In these centres, the persons receive regular counselling concerning voluntary return.
Following the assessment, the Ministry of Interior published recommendations and several objectives. This includes no longer accommodating children in these two centres and introducing more frequent shuttle services to the village. The system of isolating rejected asylum seekers in this centre was criticised heavily and had proven to be inefficient as only 18 persons have left the country out of the total of 65 persons accommodated in the first half of 2019. Moreover, it has been reported that the recommendations were not strictly applied in practice by the Ministry of Interior, as some children were reportedly still being accommodated in Schwechat. According to officials of the BFA, these recommendations are considered as non-binding.
 Die Presse, Dossier.at wegen Bericht über Asyl-Missstände verurteilt, 14 December 2015, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2BCt627.