Austria announces tough new asylum rules

Austria on Wednesday moved to further tighten migrants' access to the country by placing tough new restrictions on asylum eligibility and making it easier to reject asylum seekers at the border.

Austria announces tough new asylum rules
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (L) and Hungarian Minister of Interior Sandor Pinter (R). Photo: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

As of mid-May, the government will only accept cases of refugees facing threats to their safety in a neighbouring transit country or whose relatives are already in Austria.

“We will not consider any asylum requests unless we have to because of certain criteria… like under the (European) Convention on Human Rights,” Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told a press conference in Vienna.

She said the decision was in accordance with European Union law which allowed member states to take national measures in emergency situations.

Austria — which last year received one of the highest asylum claims per capita in the EU — was no longer “obliged” to accept all requests because the migrant crisis posed “a threat to public order and national security”, Mikl-Leitner said.

The new rules will also force migrants to request asylum directly at the border in purpose-built registration centres, where they may be held for up to 120 hours while their application is being checked.

Illegal migrants caught inside the country will be taken to the border, Mikl-Leitner warned, while rejected asylum-seekers will be returned to the nation from where they crossed into Austria.

The government also reaffirmed its intention to step up controls at existing checkpoints along its southern frontiers, including at the Brenner Pass, a key European transit route on the Italian border.

Some 14,000 people have already applied for asylum in Austria so far this year, according to the interior ministry — reaching nearly half of the annual quota of 37,500 claims imposed by the government in January.

But the flow has slowed to a trickle since Austria and Balkan countries along the main migrant trail leading up from Greece shut their borders at the end of February.


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.