Conditions in reception facilities

Austria

Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 25/04/22

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Asylkoordination Österreich Visit Website

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) took over the responsibility for reception in 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.[1] 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,[2] the decree restricting the freedom of movement of asylum seekers was challenged and is currently under review in front of the Constitutional Court.[3]

Systematic research on the standards in the basic care system of the federal provinces has not been carried out in recent years. At the end of 2021, however, asylkoordination österreich carried out a nationwide survey where the concerned NGOs working in basic care, were interviewed. The findings of this research have been incorporated throughout this Chapter. As regards the minimum standard, 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.[4] According to the findings of the survey, the minimum standard is met in all states. In Lower Austria, a better standard is being applied (9m²+5m²+6m²). However, due to the increase in asylum applications in 2021, the authority reduced the standard within the framework of the ‘Emergency Ordinance’ to 8m²+4m²+4m², which in reality means that more people can be accommodated in one room. The minimum standards also define a maximum occupancy of 5 persons per room. This is complied with in most places, and some NGOs try to advocate for a 2-bed occupancy where possible. In Burgenland, Styria and Tyrol, single adults are also partly placed in 6-8 bed rooms. During regular inspections by the authorities in Burgenland, other structural deficiencies have been reported.[5]

Depending on the infrastructure, 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. Housing in flats offers more privacy and the possibility of retreat and enables more independent living. This form of housing is also particularly suitable for vulnerable groups such as victims of violence or LGBTIQ people.

Basic care facilities in Austria vary widely in terms of size, equipment and infrastructure. There are facilities with up to 260 places (Tyrol, Vienna) but also facilities with 20, 50, 80, 90, 120-150 places. In addition, asylum seekers are also accommodated in private flats rented by NGOs, coordinated on a mobile basis via care teams. This form of housing is also ‘called mobile assisted living’. In the provinces as well as in Vienna, some asylum seekers are also accommodated in flats. The city of Vienna has announced that it would like to move away from large-scale reception models and invest in smaller accommodation units or flats. In the federal states, there are mainly smaller facilities with capacity ranging from 5 to 40 places. Larger facilities are rather rare and usually located in the cities or near a city (e.g. in Linz in Upper Austria, Eisenstadt in Burgenland, Innsbruck in Tyrol). In Vienna, most facilities are supervised 24h due to a higher amount of care capacity and accommodation of person with increased need of care.

Organisations providing care for asylum seekers receive a fixed sum per person and per day, which is aimed to cover all relevant costs. The last increase in the daily rates took place in 2016. This means that although staffing costs, rent and operating and material costs increase annually, refugee aid organisations always have to cope with the same budget. There are no other compensation from the state that could compensate for these costs. Yet, raising the daily rates and an annual valorisation are essential to ensure quality care and services for asylum seekers. NGOs argue that the amount of the daily rates must be oriented towards the needs of asylum seekers, so that care can take place “with respect for human dignity”, as stated in the minimum standards of basic care.[6]

In July 2021, asylkoordination and several NGOs working in the field of refugee care jointly sent a letter to the Ministry of the Interior pointing to the insufficient funding and the fact that this financial burden lies entirely with the NGOs, which is no longer sustainable. The letter was not published but urged the authorities to increase daily rates and an annual valorisation. The increasing number of asylum applications in 2021 has led to bottlenecks in the distribution of asylum seekers among the provinces, as there is not enough reception capacity. In this context, the issue of the lack of a valorisation of the daily rates for the care and counselling of refugees was raised again. The federal provinces demanded an increase in the daily rates before new places are created, as well as better planning, financing and the appropriate creation of precautionary capacities. In particular, the standards and daily rates for the care of unaccompanied children should be increased. At peak times, around 800 unaccompanied minors were in the care centres of the federal government.  On 2 December 2021, a first meeting took place between the federal government and the federal states (without the participation of NGOs) to discuss the increase in daily rates, standards in care, and the distribution of asylum seekers. The outcome of these discussions remain to be seen in practice.[7]

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 – this refers to the so-called “remuneration for auxiliary and cleaning activities in accommodation facilities”; i.e. “Remu-work” in short). Regarding the allowed free amount for income, the same guidelines apply in almost all federal states. Remu-work has a monthly allowance of € 110,- in all federal states except Vienna, Burgenland and Tyrol. In Vienna and Burgenland there is € 200,- per person for Remu-work and in Tyrol € 240,-. In Tyrol and Burgenland there is an additional allowance of € 80,- for each family member, in Vienna this does not apply for Remu-work , but only for regular work[8].

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 Vienna, Tyrol and Upper Austria, there are only facilities that allow self-sufficiency. All other provinces have facilities both with self-sufficiency and full-sufficiency. In Styria, as explained above, all facilities run by Caritas Styria have partial self-sufficiency, which means that part of the food is provided and part is paid out. People receive € 110 per month and pocket money. All other facilities in Styria are self-catering facilities where people receive €6 food allowance per day and pocket money In Tyrol adult asylum seekers are given € 200,- per month to organise meals by themselves. In Vienna, the amount of the food allowance varies between € 5.50 and € 6 at the different NGOs, which is due to different organisational structures. Some organisations are tax-exempt, for example Caritas, and others are not. Depending on this, the daily rate provided can be used gross for net or 10% VAT must be deducted.[9]

Federal province Self sufficiency Full sufficiency Partial self

sufficiency

Pocketmoney Food allowance per day (month)
Vienna x yes € 5.50 – € 6.00
Burgenland x x Only with full supply € 6,-
Lower Austria x x Only with full suppy € 6,-
Upper Austria x Only with full supply € 6,-

(children € 132, per month)

Styria** x x x yes € 6,-
Carinthia x x   only with full supply € 6,-
Tyrol x yes € 200,-/month/adult
€ 100,-/month/ u 18
Salzburg x x yes € 6.50
Vorarlberg x x yes € 215,-/month

Source: Own illustration based on nationwide NGO survey on basic services Dec 21/Jan 22 by asylkoordination österreich

A monthly amount of €10 is foreseen in the Basic Care agreement for leisure activities, events, celebrations and community activities. Vienna is the only province that pays €10 leisure moneys directly to residents. The requirement for the payment of leisure money is the presentation of a movie ticket, theater, museum and also a part of the monthly ticket for public transport can be paid through the leisure money. In Tyrol there is a co-financing with the province of Tyrol for German courses where the budget of the leisure money is used with additional financing from the province for German courses. In all other provinces German courses, material costs for volunteers who hold German courses or community activities such as summer program for children (e.g. Salzburg) are also financed through the leisure money. However, this is not often used in practice mainly due to administrative obstacles The processing of the leisure money runs either directly through the accommodation providers or through the organisation that offers counselling in the facilities in the federal states. Participating NGOs report that, especially since Covid 19, the possibility of requesting leisure allowances has been made more difficult as the changing measures led to an increase of demands and of the bureaucracy.[10]

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. In Vienna, the system is different: in nearly all basic care facilities is care staff available 24/7 who are responsible for counselling, information and basic care. In these care facilities the care ratio is 1:55, this is mostly the same in all federal states in basic care facilities, except Tyrol where it is 1:70. In fact, most NGOs try to have a better care key than 1:55, E.g. in Vienna and Upper Austria it differs between 1:38 to 1:55. Care staff is responsible for providing food allowance, pocket money, hygiene material, social counselling and crisis support. In Vienna, additional counselling services may be provided by specialised NGOs (e.g. specific counselling for women, men, work, education, health, youth and young adults, housing, LGBTIQ) for people in basic care.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.

An important issue that still receives too little attention in the field of accommodation in basic care is the participation of asylum seekers and refugees in reception, for example spokespersons who could represent the others. Diakonie is the first organisation that is currently setting up an internal ombudsman service for residents of the facilities.[16]

 

 

 

[1]           Der Standard, „Zweiter Corona-Lockdown im Asylzentrum Traiskirchen“, 25 May 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/38YQgjR.

[2]           Der Standard, ‚Geflüchtete wehren sich gegen Ausgangsverbot in Traiskirchen“, 30 April 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2QoiPAT.

[3]           Österreichischer Verfassungsgerichtshof, ‚Prüfbeschluss zu E3811/2020-10‘, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3vJMYdU.

[4]           Mindeststandards betreffend die Unterbringung in der Grundversorgung in Österreich (Minimum standards for hosting in Basic Care in Austria, 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1ZdoiUP.

[5]       Nationwide NGO survey on basic services Dec 21/Jan 22 asylkoordination österreich, unpublished

[6]           Asylkoordination, “Menschenwürdiges Wohnen”, asyl aktuell 2/2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3HRpDNb.

[7]           Standard, “Kostenhöchstsätze für Unterbringung von Asylwerbern werden valorisiert, 2 December 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3LwPbS5

[8]           asylkoordination österreich, Nationwide NGO survey on basic services, Dec 21/Jan 22, unpublished

[9]           asylkoordination österreich, Nationwide NGO survey on basic services, Dec 21/Jan 22, unpublished

[10]       Nationwide NGO survey on basic services Dec 21/Jan 22 asylkoordination österreich, unpublished

[11]         Fonds Soziales Wien, Information on Counselling organisations for asylum seekers, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3sD4CQ6.

[12]          Profil, ‘Nächtlicher Angriff auf Asylwerber in tiroler Bergen’ 30 October 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1G8a8MZ.

[13]          Bezirksblätter, ‘Heim am Bürglkopf wird zur Rückkehreinrichtung’, 24 August 2017, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2H8o5j2.

[14]          Ministry of Interior, Human rights recommendations, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3cILFCO.

[15]          Ministry of Interior, Answer to a parliamentary request, 3837/AB XXVI GP, 16 August 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/38gMr6r.

[16]        Nationwide NGO survey on basic services Dec 21/Jan 22 asylkoordination österreich, unpublished

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