Asylum seekers ‘should be allowed to work’

Asylum seekers 'should be allowed to work'
Symbol of the Austrian Red Cross. Photo: APA
The president of the Austrian Red Cross, Gerald Schöpfer, has said that asylum seekers should be allowed to work after being in the country for six months.
In an interview with the Austrian Press Agency, Schöpfer said that in his opinion, if the asylum procedure took more than five years, asylum seekers should be given right of residence. Not allowing them to work pushed them towards working illegally, he added.
Although the Red Cross is primarily part of the emergency services, it is also active on the fringes of society, working with migrants, asylum seekers and the elderly, according to Schöpfer.
He wants migrants to be made to feel welcome, and to have access to counselling and language lessons.
"It is not a very popular thing to say, but we have long been a country of immigration," the Red Cross head said. Being an asylum seeker often carries a stigma, he added, even though people may have no real information about an immigrants' background or education. 
Last year, there were around 17,500 applications for asylum in Austria, of which 40% were accepted, according to Anny Knapp of Asylum Coordination Austria (ACA). Most applicants were from Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Syria.
Knapp told The Local she welcomed Schöpfer's comments, and said that allowing asylum seekers to work whilst their applications were being processed would mean they wouldn't lose their skills, and were less likely to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses.  

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