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Austrian police assess risks in refugee homes
Caritas Wien

Austrian police assess risks in refugee homes

The Local · 29 Jul 2016, 11:04

Published: 29 Jul 2016 11:04 GMT+02:00

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Police officers have been visiting accommodation centres - mainly in Vienna - around two times a week for several months.

As well as providing a 'point of contact' for asylum seekers and locals, the Austrian Interior Ministry hope the police presence could help to filter out potential terrorists and troublemakers.
The head of the 12-member strong team is police colonel Friedrich Kovar.

"At first, we are there to take care," he told the Kurier. "But we are also there to assess potential risks. Officers will visit the same refugee centre every other day, so they can get a good feel for the people and situations on site."

"Since we are close to daily events at the locations, we can recognise potential problem cases much faster. We especially have an eye on those refugees who have received a negative asylum decision."

The charity Caritas, who run a large refugee home in Erdberg in Vienna, confirmed to the Local Austria the police have been routinely visiting the centre since the beginning of the year but say that the main point is not to do with terrorism. 
"We worked together with the police on how the visits could take place," spokesperson Martin Gartner said. "We are quite comfortable with it because the focus is not that much on terrorism. It's more about problems to do with things like garbage or questions from the neighbours."
He also questioned whether it "would be that easy to look into all the people" staying at the accommodation. 
The Green party's spokesperson on migration Alev Korun told The Local Austria that the aim of trying to prevent radicalisation is "understandable" but also added that a blanket search without prior evidence is a bit like "looking for a needle in a haystack". 
Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundbock noted that constitutional guarantees still applied to all refugees including the presumption of innocence.
He said: "Not everyone who has received a negative asylum decision is automatically a terrorist or a gunman. There must not be a general suspicion towards all, but each case should be investigated individually when there is a reasonable suspicion."
Especially in the larger care facilities for refugees, fear of deportation, despondency, hopelessness and aggressiveness can easily surface. For this reason, the city of Vienna relies mostly on smaller scale facilities for the more than 20,000 asylum seekers currently in primary care.
Nevertheless, the city of Vienna’s refugee coordinator Peter Hacker is critical of the government.
Story continues below…
He said: "The period from the moment a refugee gets a negative asylum decision to actual deportation takes far too long. In this time-frame, desperation among refugees grows. It is when they are most vulnerable to radicalisation."
Vienna is not alone with the new approach. Already in the Austrian state of Tyrol, the police are cooperating with the domestic security agency as part of a pilot project that reaches into all asylum centres of the state.
Police spokesman Manfred Dummer said: "We have police officers who are specially trained by the domestic security services to maintain contact with the refugees. If the project is successful, we will expand it to other states."
Story courtesy of Central European News. Additional reporting carried out by The Local Austria

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