Ministers hammer out plan for refugee influx
The Austrian government is holding talks on Friday on how to deal more effectively with the large numbers of refugees entering the country from Hungary, some of whom are claiming asylum in Austria. They will discuss integration, housing and employment opportunities.
The flow of migrants continues, with as many as 4,000 people crossing the Hungarian border overnight and many having to sleep outside in Nickelsdorf. A section of the A4 road which crosses the border has been closed to traffic due to safety concerns, and a speed limit of 60km/h is being enforced along the motorway to prevent accidents as refugees continue to walk across the border.
Buses have been dispatched to Nickelsdorf to transport refugees to Vienna but a police spokesman there has said it is becoming difficult to maintain order.
Austria’s refugee coordinator Christian Konrad has called for housing solutions for the winter as hundreds of asylum seekers currently staying at the Traiskirchen reception centre in Lower Austria are sleeping in tents due to overcrowding there.
Education Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek will be putting forward proposals on how to integrate refugee children into schools and Health Minister Sabine Oberhauser has said that she wants refugees who were medics in their home countries to begin working in hospitals as soon as possible - not least to help traumatised patients from their own countries.
EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said in a “state of the union” address on Wednesday that asylum seekers should be allowed to work as soon as they are registered in their new country. Social Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer said on Thursday that he was open to this idea but that an easing of employment market regulations would only be possible if all EU countries agreed to accept binding quotas for refugee distribution.
Speaking to Ö1 radio he said that one proposal being discussed would give people who had been granted asylum in Austria a year-long ‘introduction’ to the labour market which would include training and working with aid organisations.
The head of Austria’s Public Employment Service (AMS), Johannes Kopf, said he would recommend handing out work permits dependent on a refugee’s country of origin - with refugees from countries like Syria, who are more likely to be granted asylum, being allowed to work immediately. He said asylum seekers from countries deemed ‘safe’ (such as Albania, Kosovo and Turkey) should not be given immediate access to the labour market.