The deadline for the family of four to leave Austria was on Monday 24th October, but they stayed. The community says they are very well integrated and it’s not right that they should have to move to Croatia, which is the first European country where they were registered.
Over the weekend people in Kumberg held a torchlit procession to show solidarity for the Iraqi family. Together with a lawyer from Graz, the family has now appealed for help from the ECJ to prevent their imminent deportation.
“We have heard directly from contacts in Croatia that the refugee shelters there are designed to accommodate only around 700 refugees – and that currently there are more than 1,500 refugees who are meant to be returned to Croatia. This means that the accommodation does not meet European standards,” said Norbert Johne from a local organisation that helps refugees.
Johne said the family had to leave Iraq because the Islamic State militant group was trying to recruit the father to fight with them. He added that he’s worried that there won’t be appropriate psychiatric care for the family in Croatia. “The mother was in psychiatric care for two weeks, and the children are still traumatized because of the flight from Iraq,” he said.
A response from the ECJ is expected by Wednesday, as to whether the family’s human rights are being violated if they can not be provided with adequate accommodation and care in Croatia.
The case first made headlines in September, when police came to the Iraqi family’s home to arrest them for deportation. However, the children – a boy and a girl who are primary school age – ran away and hid. A police helicopter was used to search for the children. The Styrian Green party and Kumberg locals were very critical of the police’s behaviour, saying they had gone too far.
The Iraqi family have been living in Kumberg since December 2015, and would need to stay in Austria for five years in order to be granted permanent asylum status.