The information leaflets in the initial reception centre provide brief information on rights and obligations with regard to reception conditions, e.g. the possibility and obligation to visit a doctor, the possibility to contact UNHCR, the obligation to declare resources or sources of income, the restricted movement and the meaning of the different documents (such as the green card). Information leaflets are available in most of the languages spoken by asylum seekers.
The residence restriction applicable since 1 November 2017 is notified in writing in all federal provinces. Asylum seekers are required to sign the notice (see Freedom of Movement). NGOs and private operators have produced information sheets in a wide range of languages. There have been a number of cases where asylum seekers have been sanctioned for violating their residence restrictions, including in cases where the concerned person was visiting friends in Vienna and did not change his or her residence. Apart from Vienna and Lower Austria, the residence restriction is of little relevance.
In the reception centres, asylum seekers are provided information about the house rules, as well as on their duties and the possible subsequent sanctions. The house rules in the reception centres of Styria, for example, are available at the digital federal legal information system RIS (Rechtsinformationssystem). Information is either posted in the most common languages (e.g. English, Russian, French, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Serbian) or a paper containing brief written instructions has to be signed by the asylum seeker. In the states of Lower Austria, and Salzburg, a brochure, which is also available on the internet, describes the Basic Care system, although information is not up to date. In other provinces like Vienna, the information brochure contains the issues of the Basic Care system and contact details of NGOs providing information and advice. Advice from social workers is included in the reception provisions laid down by law. Social advisers visit reception centres on a regular basis, but have to fulfil at the same time administrative tasks such as handing over the monthly pocket money or the vouchers for clothes and school material. Organisations providing social advice usually also have departments for legal advice to asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers living in rented flats have to go to the offices of the social advice organisations. The current system of provision of information is not satisfactory, as there is only one social worker responsible for 170 asylum seekers. This means that the quality of the services provided by social workers is low in practice. Furthermore, there are considerable differences from one federal province to another: one social worker is responsible for 50 asylum seekers in Vorarlberg and for 70 asylum seekers in Vienna. Moreover, reception centres located in remote areas cannot be visited very often by social workers due to insufficient funding.
As a consequence, many volunteers and communities help asylum seekers, for example by sharing information via social networks. Although their number has reduced in recent years, volunteers are still active in 2020 and assist asylum seekers in various aspects. This includes providing German language lessons and conversation, explaining asylum seekers’ obligations and rights, helping with the family reunification procedure or helping to access housing or employment upon termination of the asylum procedure. Some initiatives organise petitions and press reports against deportations to Afghanistan and other countries.
 Stmk. Grundversorgungsgesetz-Durchführungsverordnung, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2CfJ2rs.