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IMMIGRATION

Hungary threatens Austrians with arrest

Some 2,200 people had joined a social media campaign in Austria by Friday afternoon to organise a convoy of private cars and vans on Sunday to help pick up hundreds of migrants stranded in Hungary.

Hungary threatens Austrians with arrest
Refugees face police in Budapest railway station. Photo: Youtube screen shot

Update: Austria's police chief said Thursday that refugees arriving in Vienna from Hungary will not be checked or registered, and are allowed to continue their journey onwards to Germany if they wish.

“What we certainly can't do is check all those people coming through, establish all their identities, or possibly even arrest them — we can't do this, and we have no plans to do this,” Gerhard Puerstl told Reuters.

Social media convoy 

“The Austrian government and the EU stand by idly and watch as people on the streets of Budapest — without any appropriate supplies — have to endure appalling conditions,” organisers of the citizen initiative wrote on the Facebook page.

“That's why we are intervening and starting a convoy of buses and cars to bring the refugees to safety.”

Campaigners have called on private drivers of cars and vans to meet in Vienna on Sunday morning and to head to Hungary in order to bring as many migrants and refugees as possible to Austria or Germany.

On Friday, authorities in Budapest said that hundreds of refugees, furious at being tricked by Hungarian authorities, were planning to walk to Vienna.

The Hungarian government has declared a 'state of crisis caused by mass immigration', which permits the police and the army to help registering asylum applications and operate detention facilities in registration camps.

“If we do not protect our borders, tens of millions of migrants will keep coming to Europe,” right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a statement on Friday.

“If we allow everyone in, that is the end of Europe. We may one morning wake up and realise that we are in the minority on our own continent.”

Rail links suspended

The organisers said they were reacting to the decision by Hungarian authorities to suspend rail links to western Europe as thousands of migrants have crowded its train stations.

Four Austrian activists were arrested on Friday in Budapest after allegedly planning to drive migrants to Austria, which is a crime in Hungary that carries up to five years in prison.

Hungary's foreign affairs minister Peter Szijjarto said the activists would be promptly released.

“We find ourselves in a very difficult circumstance. We don't need people coming here and inflaming the situation,” he added.

Illegal

Austrian authorities affirmed on Thursday that aiding illegal immigration is against the law and carries a fine of up to €5,000 ($5,500).

The activists, citing the precedent of a train hired by Austria's national rail company to carry migrants, noted that they had arranged for “legal assistance” for participants.

Hungary has in recent months joined Italy and Greece as a “frontline” state in Europe's migrant crisis, with 50,000 people trekking up the western Balkans and entering the country in August alone.

A record 3,300 migrants crossed into Hungary on Thursday, according to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency.

The right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban has responded to the influx by erecting a controversial razor-wire barrier along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia.

 Aylan buried in Syria

Hungarian lawmakers meanwhile passed tough new anti-immigration measures, including criminalising illegal border crossing and vandalism to a razor-wire fence erected along the border with Serbia.

Some 50,000 migrants arrived in Hungary last month via the western Balkans, with a record 3,300 on Thursday, according to UN figures.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia on Friday separately proposed creating a rail corridor for Syrian refugees linking Hungary and Germany.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres meanwhile warned the EU faced a “defining moment” and called for the mandatory resettlement of 200,000 refugees by EU states.

Some 350,00 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, with 2,600 dying when ricketty boats supplied by ruthless people smugglers sank.

Symbolising the human tragedy at the heart of the crisis, Aylan's father Abdullah Kurdi returned Friday to the Syrian border town of Kobane to lay his son to rest along with Aylan's brother and mother, who also died.

“I will have to pay the price for this the rest of my life,” the devastated father told mourners, after personally carrying his sons' bodies to Kobane's Martyrs' Cemetery, where around 100 people attended the ceremony.

The family were driven out of Kobane in June after fierce fighting between Kurdish militants and Islamic State militants.

There was a global outrage after photos showed the little boy's body lying in the surf of a Turkish resort, washed up after the boat taking the family to Greece sank.

Angry protesters booed European Commission's vice-president Frans Timmermans and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Friday when they visited the Greek island of Kos on Friday.

EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss the crisis ahead of a “State of the Union” address next week by European Commission President
Jean-Claude Juncker when he will lay out new measures which could well exacerbate EU differences.

Juncker has proposed mandatory quotas for resettling 160,000 refugees, after an earlier plan for 40,000 met stiff opposition, notably from Hungary, and attracted offers of places for only 32,000.

Germany and France back quotas, but Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia together rejected any quota systems in a statement on Friday.

Britain to take thousands more

Under-fire British Prime Minister David Cameron, accused of not doing enough to share the burden, said he would set out plans next week to take “thousands more” refugees.

However he insisted they would be refugees from camps on the border with Syria and not those already in other EU member states. To do that, would just encourage more people to make the perilous journey to Europe, he said.

If some governments are wary, many ordinary Europeans were taking the initiative and providing help for the migrants as well they could.

In Austria, some 2,200 people joined a social media campaign to organise a convoy of private cars and vans on Sunday to help pick up hundreds of the migrants in Hungary.

“The Austrian government and the EU stand by idly,” organisers of the citizen initiative wrote on their Facebook page.

Charities across Europe meanwhile reported a surge in donations from people shocked by the heart-rending images.

“There is an enormous response from the public, the tide of indifference is shifting,” Christian Peregrin, spokesman for the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station, told AFP.

At least 30 more migrants were feared to have drowned off Libya after their dinghy began to sink, the International Organisation for Migration said Friday.

IMMIGRATION

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Austria's recent Migration & Integration report paints a detailed picture of who are the immigrants in the country, where they come from, the languages they speak at home and more.

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

More than a quarter of Austria’s population has a “migration background”, which, according to the statistics institute Statistik Austria, means that they have parents who both were born abroad, regardless of their own nationality or place of birth.

Though migration is a controversial topic for some, Statistik Austria made it clear that if not for it, the country would simply stop growing.

“Austria’s population is growing solely due to immigration. Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”, says Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Not every person with a migration background is considered a foreigner, though. Many of them have parents who were born abroad but naturalised Austrians before having children, or they themselves became Austrian citizens later on.

This is why despite 25.4 percent of the population having a “migration background”, the number of people with foreign nationalities is slightly lower at 17.7 percent.

So, who are these people? 

German is still the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria (218,347 people). But much had changed since 2015 (when there were 170,475 Germans).

The number of Romanians has almost doubled (from 73,374 to 140,454), bringing them to the second-largest foreigner community in Austria, behind German citizens.

In 2015, Turkish was the second-largest foreign nationality in Austria (there were 115,433), but they are now the fourth (with 117,944 people), behind German, Romanian, and Serbians (121,643).

They are helping Austria get younger

In Austria, most people without a migration background (36.2 percent) are between 40 to 64 years old. The share is also quite large among those with 65 or more years, reaching 21.8 percent.

When it comes to people with a migration background, most are between 40 to 64 years old (34.4 percent), followed closely by the 20 to 39-year-olds (33.5 percent), and then the children and adolescents until 19 years of age (22 percent). Only 10.2 percent of the people with a migration background are older than 65.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Regarding nationalities, Austrians have an average age of 44.8, followed by Germans, who average 41.1. The youngest populations are the Afghani living in Austria (24.9 years old on average) and the Syrians (26.3).

Immigration helps keep the Austrian population younger. (Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash)

Language and education

People with a migration background living in Austria have a different educational profile than the population without a migration background, according to the Statistik Austria data.

They are more often represented in the lowest and highest educational segments and less often in the middle-skilled segment than the population without a migration background.

However, the educational level of immigrants is improving over time, on the one hand, due to increasing internal migration, also of higher educated people within the EU. On the other hand, as a result of the selective immigration policy toward third-country nationals by the Red-White-Red Card, the institution said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

In 2021, 19.4 percent of the Austrian population had higher education, such as a university degree, and 10.9 percent had only mandatory primary schooling. Regarding foreigners, 29 percent had university-level education and 25.1 percent had completed only their primary school years.

When it comes to children and the language they speak, German was the first language of about 72 percent of the four and 5-year-old children in elementary educational institutions in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

With just under six percent each, Turkish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BKS) were the most common non-German first languages. Around two percent each spoke Romanian, Arabic or Albanian, followed by Hungarian (one percent).

Less than one percent each for Persian, Polish, Slovakian, English, Russian and Kurdish, respectively, as the first languages. Languages other than those mentioned were spoken by slightly more than five percent.

And who is naturalising Austrian?

Not all foreigners become Austrian, even if they have been in the country for decades. One of the reasons is that the process is expensive, but also because it requires applicants to give up their previous citizenship – something many are unwilling to do.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

According to the report, in 2021, most foreign citizens who naturalised Austrian were from Turkey originally (1,100), followed by Bosnia (921), Serbia (782), Afghanistan (545), and Syria (543).

More than one-third of the people naturalising Austrian last year were already born in Austria, and most of the naturalisations were of young people between 20 and 40 years old.

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