Police defend large scale search for one refugee

Police defend large scale search for one refugee
Alberschwende. Photo: Schemmerhofen.de
Police in the village of Alberschwende in Vorarlberg launched a large scale operation on Monday to search for a Syrian refugee who is due to be deported to Hungary, but failed to find him.

Eight police patrols searched homes in the community of around 3,000, which has supported a small group of asylum seekers and tried to prevent their deportation.

Police spokesman Stefan Morscher said that if another arrest order comes from the Federal Office for Asylum then police will have to search locals’ homes again but said that he was keen that they were not punished for resisting the police.

For weeks the community has been supporting five Syrians who were given temporary asylum in Alberschwende but now face being deported.

150 people have signed up to be part of an emergency contact team who pledged to protect the asylum seekers if they were threatened with deportation. However, the police operation on Monday happened so quickly that the team could not be contacted in time.

The mayor of Alberschwende, Angelika Schwarzmann (ÖVP), told the ORF that refugees have at least three weeks notice before they can be deported, and that the community was not hiding the refugees.

She added that the men could not be expected to sit at home and wait for the police to come and get them as they had classes to attend and are employed on a community building site. For the last four months the community has done everything it can to integrate the men, she said.

Eight Syrian asylum seekers have been living in Alberschwende for the last four months, and five of them were told they would later be deported to Hungary within days of their arrival. Schwarzmann argues that Hungary is not a safe country for them to be sent to, as refugees there have been deprived of their rights and imprisoned.

After six months in Austria refugees have the right to apply for asylum. This period expires for the five men in question on June 22nd. Syrian refugees have a high likelihood of being granted asylum.

The Greens party has criticized the police operation in Alberschwende as disproportionate and has asked for the Ombudsman to review the current approach to asylum seekers.

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