An asylum seeker that has no other financial means has the right to receive Basic Care services after lodging an asylum claim. In practice, basic care services are provided following the first interview on travel routes. The responsibility to provide Basic Care services is split between the Federal system and the states and is regulated in an agreement between the two since 2004.
During the admission procedure the federal state is in charge of providing Basic Care through its state agency the BBU GmbH. The agency is in charge of the three reception centres (EAST) where the first procedural steps such as medical checks and registration are conducted. Besides the EAST there are currently nine federal centres where asylum seekers are being accommodated. After admission to the procedure the responsibility to provide Basic Care shifts to the states. Asylum seekers should be taken over by the states from federal care facilities to a state quarter as soon as possible. State facilities are generally smaller units (former pensions etc). The conclusion of the corresponding contracts with the facilities falls under the responsibility of the respective states. Applicants for international protection are accommodated as long as they fall under the Basic Welfare Service Agreement.
In practice, the transfers of asylum seekers from federal facilities to the facilities in the states have not functioned smoothly and the actors blame each other for these delays. As a result, asylum seekers stay in large and inadequate federal centres for longer time than needed. Nevertheless, following the start of the BBU GmbH as Basic Care provider during the admission period, the transfers to the state systems seems to have increased and the cooperation has improved.
Following the increase of applicants in 2021, the initial reception centres of the Federal Government have been overcrowded. Many facilities in the provinces have been closed throughout Austria in recent years, and it is therefore not possible to allocate asylum seekers quickly and adequately to the provincial facilities due to a lack of capacity. In 2021, this resulted in the re-opening of previously closed federal facilities and the opening of new facilities (e.g. Carinthia). The Covid 19 pandemic led to clusters in some federal facilities, and it was not possible to test sufficiently well for Covid 19 in all initial reception centres, which in turn led to delays in the allocation of asylum seekers to state care and to other federal care facilities. Provinces such as Tyrol, Lower Austria, Carinthia or Styria reported a lack of communication in the allocation of federal to provincial care (i.e. little to no preparation time for new residents to move in, transports in the middle of the night, little information for people with special needs, etc.) In addition, there were problems with regard to the payment of clothing allowances, as in many cases the BBU in the initial reception centres had already exhausted the entitlement to clothing allowances per person per year.
When there is a high number of applications for international protection, applicants are transferred to so called federal distribution centres after the admission phase is concluded – from which they will be transferred to provincial facilities, which are smaller facilities where they stay until the end of the procedure.
If a person receives a refugee status, they can stay up to four months in the reception centre before being forced to leave the accommodation, while there is no time limit applicable to persons holding a subsidiary protection. In some states such as Styria, rejected asylum seekers are told to leave the next day after receiving the negative decision. In other provinces such as Vienna the practice is different. The reason for these different practices is that some states consider that rejected asylum seekers who do not leave voluntarily no longer fall under the basic care regulation.
If persons do not opt for voluntary return, the BFA can order them to accept an accommodation place in so called return centres. These centres are located in the mountains of Tyrol, close to the Vienna Airport and in a remote village in Upper Austria. There, the rejected asylum seekers receive basic care services. If they refuse to be accommodated in these places, they are not entitled to basic care in other provinces and the risk of being apprehended in deportation centre is likely to increase.
In 2022, a reception crisis hit Austria. Due to a high number of applications and non-cooperation of the provinces who are supposed to take over asylum seekers upon completion of the admissibility procedure, the capacities in the federal reception centres reached their limits in the fall of 2022. The number of asylum seekers in basic care only increased moderately from 17,000 in January 2022 to 21,500 in December 2022 even though Austria registered more than 100,000 asylum applications in the same time. Many applicants travelled on to other countries after registration. Even though the number of applicants absconding from the procedure was very high, the BBU GmbH had to build up tents in order to prevent homelessness.
The reception crisis was foreseeable as the backlog of persons admitted to the procedure but not being transferred to the basic care offered by the provinces has been increasing steadily since summer 2021.
The reception crisis of fall 2022 is only partly due to the high number of asylum applications: the provinces have decreased their housing capacities massively in the last years due to smaller number of applications and lack of finances. A crisis plan was never elaborated.
The situation in the federal reception centres was very tense: as many applicants travelled on there was a high fluctuation rate which was a big challenge for the BBU GmbH that operates the federal centres. When the weather reached lows and snow fell a public outcry resulted in closing down the tents and moving persons to buildings in November.
NGOs presented a plan with seven measures to be taken to resolve the reception crisis in fall 2022.
 asylkoordination österreich, Nationwide NGO survey on basic services, Dec 21/Jan 22, unpublished.