Bad Ischl fights for asylum family
A petition has been set up in Bad Ischl (Upper Austria) to try and prevent the deportation of a family of refugees who have become well-integrated into the spa town.
The Catholic priest at the church in Bad Ischl spoke out against Austria's “inhuman” asylum policy in his Sunday service. His congregation of several hundred people then marched through the town centre in protest at the decision to deport the family.
The Hakobyans and their two children have been told they will be sent back to their home country Armenia.
They fled in 2012 because the father was working as a journalist, and reported witnessing a Mafia murder.
Since then, he has been pursued by the people involved and fears for his life, and that of his wife and children.
However, this is not sufficient grounds for claiming asylum, according to the Austrian authorities - as Armenia is classified as a politically safe country.
The family’s application for asylum has been turned down twice and now they have been told they can no longer appeal and must leave the country.
Local priest Christian Öhler has said the only thing left to the family is to appeal to the humanity and good will of the authorities.
He has said that he and his congregation are prepared to act as "guarantors for the family".
However, this form of asylum is only granted to families who have been waiting more than five years for a decision. The Hakobyans have only been waiting for one and a half years.
Last year the community collected a total of 1,800 signatures for the family and it has now put its petition online, in the hope that the authorities may relent and give the Hakobyans a last minute reprieve.
The husband and wife work for the city council and are actively involved in parish life. Their son plays for the local football team and was due to start at a specialist football school in September.
SPÖ local councillor Ines Schiller has been fighting for the family for over a year but said that there is now nothing else she can do, within the framework of the law.
"The final decision came a few days ago, and we expect that the family will be deported quickly. The authorities prefer to do that in the summer holidays because they expect there will be fewer protests," she said.