January 11, 2019

Austria Plans Asylum Reform in Spring

An asylum reform for refugees in Austria will be carried out by the country’s coalition government in March 2019.

It was stated in the joint statement of the government’s coordinators Gernot Blümel (from the Austrian People’s Party, OVP) and Norbert Hofer (from the Freedom Party of Austria, FPO), Ukrinform reports. 

The statement indicates that the government’s programme stipulates the reform of legal assistance (for asylum-seekers) and it will be elaborated jointly. It was agreed that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior would develop by March a joint proposal on the reform of legal assistance and it would be also passed in March by the Chancellery. 

It is noted that legal assistance to asylum-seekers must be provided by public agencies. 

Now, legal assistance is provided to asylum-seekers in Austria by private NGOs on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior. According to the government’s plan, starting from 2020, these issues must be undertaken by the new federal agency under the Ministry of the Interior. The latter, headed by the politician from the right-wing populist party, states that the processes connected with asylum will go faster. However, critics see a threat to the independence of these processes in these plans. 

Austrian mass media have informed earlier about significant disagreements concerning the reform between the chiefs of the Ministry of Justice Josef Moser (from the OVP) and the Ministry of the Interior Herbert Kickl (from the FPO). Thus, the Ministry of the Interior wanted to cancel all existing deals with NGOs starting from 2019, while the Ministry of Justice objected. 

It is planned that within the framework of the reform, the process of provision of services to refugees will also go to the government: now, the Swiss company ORS deals with all asylum facilities in the federal system, including the largest asylum centres in Traiskirchen. The Austrian Ministry of the Interior plans that the new federal agency must undertake these functions in 2020.