In an interview published on Tuesday in the Kurier newspaper, Sobotka calls for a tightening of immigration criminal law and punishment.
“Those who are fleeing war and persecution receive the full protection of the Geneva Convention,” he said. “But those who travel to us illegally for economic reasons, I would like them to see legal consequences. That requires a significant strengthening of the law.”
The Interior Minister did not specify exactly how the punishment for illegal migration, currently a fine between €100 and €1000, but called for changes in the Aliens and Security Police Act and criminal law.
In the same interview he pushed back at those who believe there will not be a repeat this year of last summer’s wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Austria, saying it could well happen again.
“In the next one to three weeks there will be no huge landings. But what happens in October, nobody knows. Who have predicted the coup attempt in Turkey? Not one of our secret services saw the signs,” he said.
Major integration report
His comments follow a major report released by the Foreign Ministry yesterday outlining the number of migrants and refugees in Austria today.
According to the figures released by the ministry, there were 1.8 million people in Austria with a migrant background in 2015, an increase from 1.7 million in the previous year.
Much of the reported was focused on the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Austria, with the Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz confirming the number of asylum applications received by the country in 2015 as 88,340.
Kurz argued that in order successful integration depended on how many people there are to integrate and said he want to see a reduction in the number of people coming to Austria. “We need a jolt to bring people as quickly as possible into the labour market or any other form of employment,” he added.
The report outlined the German-language abilities of those with a migrant background, with 17 percent speaking German as their mother tongue and a further seven as their second mother tongue.
Of the rest who don’t have German as a mother tongue, a fifth speak excellent German, a third of advanced ability and 29% have average German. The remaining 17% have reportedly little or no German language ability.
The charity Caritas, who offer support services to disadvantaged people in Austria, including refugees, say better training and support to help young people secure qualifications is needed.
“To achieve integration, language support must be available from the outset,” said Caritas President Michael Landau. “Work is a significant integration catalyst. It is short-sighted to force people, in particular asylum seekers, into doing nothing. Because only those with access to the employment market can afford to contribute something to society.”
No access to employment market
In Austria’s current system, asylum seekers who have not yet received refugee status do not have access to state-run free German courses and are not allowed to enter the common employment market.
Heinz Faßmann, from the Expert Council for Integration that helped to produce the latest report, said on Tuesday that Germany’s one-euro-jobs approach is “not so bad”.
The German programme is designed to help unemployed people into employment and has been touted as a springboard for the newcomers into the country’s job market.