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MILITARY

Austria ready to deploy army at Italy border

Austria will “very soon” impose border checks and deploy soldiers on its frontier with Italy if the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean does not slow, Vienna's defence minister was quoted as saying.

Austria ready to deploy army at Italy border
Refugees and migrants on an Italian Navy Ship. Photo: UNHCR/Francesco Malavolta

“I expect that very soon border controls will be activated and that an assistance deployment (by the military) will be requested,” Hans Peter Doskozil told the online edition of the Krone daily on Monday.

He was cited as saying that this move was “indispensable if the inflow into Italy does not ease”. The paper said that 750 soldiers were available and that four armoured vehicles had already been sent to the area over the weekend.

Austria introduced checks on its eastern border with Hungary in 2015 and has readied physical measures such as barriers on its Italian border in the south-west, including at the famous Brenner Pass.

Nearly 85,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy by sea this year, the UN refugee agency said earlier on Monday. More than 2,000 others have died or gone missing on the perilous crossing.

“This is not sustainable. We need to have other countries joining Italy and sharing that responsibility,” Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR's special envoy for the central Mediterranean, told reporters in Geneva.

The comments from the centre-left Doskozil come ahead of early elections in Austria in October when the anti-immigration far-right is forecast to do well and potentially emerge as the biggest party.

For members

IMMIGRATION

What is Vienna’s MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The city of Vienna now has several new appointment slots for a 'first information meeting' for those wanting to apply for Austrian citizenship. Here's what you need to know.

What is Vienna's MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna, MA 35, is known for long waiting periods, delays and even mistakes being made in applications. It has recently received renewed criticisms as new appointments for Austrian citizenship were not open until mid-2023.

Things got even worse, and applicants now have to wait until October 2023 to get the first appointment. Only after this meeting will they receive another date (sometimes also a year later) to submit the documents asked. 

READ ALSO: ‘Insensitive and inefficient’: Your verdict on Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

Green politician Aygül Berivan Aslan said the reform of MA 35 had “failed”. She said she welcomed the SPÖ’s push towards simplifying access to citizenship but felt that “theory and practice do not match”. Speaking in the Viennese parliament, she introduced a motion for a six-month evaluation of the office.

Aslan also proposed that in the case of delays of more than six months, citizenship costs should be waived for applicants. 

Stadt Wien service screenshot

How bad is the situation?

Not only do people have to wait months for a first talk and then months to submit documents, but once their part is done, the wait is not over. There are currently 3,800 procedures pending for more than half a year in the MA 35, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Integration Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) said.

He justified delays saying that the number of applications had risen by around 30 percent his year in Vienna – only last month, there were 600 appointments booked. 

“The sharp increase can be explained by the eligibility of refugees from 2015 to apply for citizenship as well as by uncertainties caused by the war in Ukraine”, he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Bring everything you have’: Key tips for dealing with Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

He added that the goal would need to be “simplifying the procedures nationwide”. However, Wiederkehr also said there were reforms still being implemented in the MA 35.

Wiederkehr said: “On the part of the city, there are ongoing staff increases at MA 35. The training of the employees is so complex that it takes about a year.” 

“In addition to the increase in staff, there was an analysis to optimise some work processes, as well as intensive training. Digitalisation is also being accelerated”, he added.

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