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Austrian MPs approve tough new migrant bill

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Refugees at Vienna's Westbahnhof station. File photo: Caritas
11:37 CET+01:00
Austrian government ministers have approved new legislation which will reform asylum seekers’ rights, including delaying family reunification.

Having taken in 90,000 asylum seekers last year, the governing coalition has said it is time to toughen up Austria’s liberal admissions policies and make it a less attractive destination for asylum seekers.

The bill stipulates that once granted asylum, a refugee’s situation should be examined after three years to determine if they are still at risk in their homeland, and if they are not they could then be deported.

However, if the refugee in question is well integrated in Austria and there are humanitarian reasons why they should not be sent home, then deportation is unlikely.

Sources at the interior ministry have said that refugees who have taken language and Austrian values courses are less likely to be deported, but that each case will be decided on an individual basis.

The new bill will also increase the waiting period before which refugees can apply to bring over family members. Those who have been granted subsidiary protection will have to wait three years, rather than one. And war refugees from countries like Syria who are granted asylum will have to apply within three months of being granted asylum status, if they want family members to be able to join them. They will also have to prove that they have enough money to be able to support their family.

The new rules will affect all refugees who applied for asylum after November 15th 2015, as well those who are still waiting for a decision to be made on their status.

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The Caritas charity has criticised the new law, saying it will add to human suffering and make it even harder for refugees to integrate.

Denmark is expected to vote on Tuesday on similar reforms intended to stem the flow of refugees through its borders. International outrage has focussed on a proposal allowing police to seize cash and valuables from refugees to help pay for their stay in asylum centres.

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