Asylum halt slammed by rights experts

A decision by Austria’s interior minister to stop processing asylum requests in an effort to pressure other European Union member states to do more to help absorb the numbers of refugees pouring into the continent has been criticised by human rights experts.

Asylum halt slammed by rights experts
Asylum seekers have been housed in tents. Photo:

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, said the move was the wrong way to respond to the problem and that Austria could not “waive its human rights obligations”. 


Vienna needs to “stop the Austrian asylum express” and become less attractive to refugees, Johanna Mikl-Leitner told Die Presse newspaper on Friday. She has demanded that other countries adopt fixed quotas for taking in asylum seekers.

“So far there have been only isolated declarations of intent that do not bring us further,” she said ahead of a planned meeting of interior ministers from the 28-nation EU on Tuesday.

Last month the European Commission said it would ease pressure on Italy and Greece, which are struggling to deal with thousands of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, through an emergency scheme to redistribute 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers throughout the EU.

The plan would see France and Germany take nearly 40 percent of the migrants, and both countries have raised concerns about the Commission proposals. Britain, which has an exemption in EU matters on immigration, has said it will not participate in the scheme.

Asylum requests for Austria rose nearly 160 percent in the first four months of the year to 14,225, government data show.

Mikl-Leitner said Austria, which has recently had to house hundreds of refugees in tents, is one of the fastest EU member states when it comes to handling asylum requests – making a ruling within four months on average.

Austrian refugee support groups called her decision to stop processing the asylum requests irresponsible.

The president of Austria’s Chamber of Commerce, Christoph Leitl, told Ö1 radio that Europe needs to invest in Africa in order to help impoverished people there establish a future. He also called for a “pan-European solidarity”.

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Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

International business owners in Vienna bring in billions of euros in revenue and taxes each year, according to a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce.

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna's economy

New figures show that Vienna’s international entrepreneurs do more than simply boost diversity in Austria’s capital city – they also significantly contribute to the local economy.

The Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce) has revealed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs.

Plus, these companies pay around € 3.7 billion every year in taxes and duties, reports ORF.

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Walter Ruck, President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies with a migrant background not only enrich the diversity of the corporate landscape in Vienna, they are also an economic factor.”

Ruck added that more than 200 international companies move to the capital each year and said the diversity is helping Vienna to financially recover from the pandemic. 

The Chamber of Commerce considers a business owner to have a migration background if they were not born in Austria and/or they have a non-Austrian nationality.

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According to ORF, there are 34,000 entrepreneurs in Vienna with a migration background and 7,400 of those business owners have Austrian citizenship.

Additionally, 4,500 business owners have Slovakian nationality, 3,800 are from Romania and 2,600 have German citizenship.

The most popular business sector for people in Vienna with a migration background is retail, followed by real estate and technical services.