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Will Austria accept more Afghani asylum seekers due to Taliban crisis?

Austria’s position on the continued deportation of asylum seekers to Afghanistan has come under fire in recent days. What are Austria’s politicians saying now that the Taliban has taken over Kabul?

Will Austria accept more Afghani asylum seekers due to Taliban crisis?
Scenes from the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to take over the country. Wakil Kohsar / AFP

As dramatic scenes of people trying to escape at Kabul Airport were broadcast across the world yesterday, the Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig called for Austria to accept asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

Ludwig took to Twitter to say he was “deeply shaken” by the footage and that Austria and the international community has a responsibility to help people at risk in Afghanistan.

He described Vienna as a human rights city and called for protection for Afghan people who worked closely with Austrian representatives as part of the activities by the European Commission in Kabul.

Ludwig added Vienna is “ready” to accept asylum seekers from Afghanistan in the city and called upon the federal government to do more. 

“I am deeply shocked by the dramatic images from #Kabul. The international community, including Austria, is called upon to provide immediate assistance.”

“The federal government must therefore place these people under international protection. Vienna declares itself ready in any case to take in such people in our city – which is not a human rights city for nothing. Now we have to stick together!”

This was followed by an ORF “Summer Talks” interview with the leader of the Greens and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler on Monday evening.

Kogler said deportations to Afghanistan would no longer take place in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and asylum applications would continue to be accepted.

The Convention prohibits people from being deported back to a country where there is a risk of torture or a danger to life and limb.

READ MORE: France’s Macron calls for EU cooperation over Afghanistan crisis

However, when Kogler was asked directly if Afghan asylum seekers should be accepted in Austria, he said Austria should offer support, especially in protecting women. But he said he could not elaborate further, “because we do not rule alone”.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) has come under fire in recent days following comments that people would continue to be deported to Afghanistan as long as it was possible.

Thomas Stelzer (ÖVP) warned of a growing refugee crisis, saying Europe needed to tighten its external borders. 

“The European Union must not be surprised and overwhelmed by migration flows again!” Stelzer said

On Monday, Tyrolean SPÖ leader Georg Dornauer, told ORF he has changed his stance on the issue and now supported a freeze on deportations to Afghanistan. 

Also on Monday, Italian politician Federica Dieni, from the Five Star Movement, criticised the Austrian Federal Government for speaking out against stopping deportations to Afghanistan, as reported by Der Standard

In an interview with Radio 24, Dieni said: “The Austrian position is to be condemned.”

READ MORE: Will Vienna restrict sport, leisure and gastronomy facilities to the vaccinated?

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Reader question: Can I vote in Austria’s presidential elections?

On October 9th, Austria will vote to elect a new president, but who can vote in these national elections?

Reader question: Can I vote in Austria's presidential elections?

Austria’s presidential election will take place on October 9th, with seven candidates vying to take over at the Hofburg – the official workplace of the country’s president.

According to opinion polls, the favourite to win is the current president Alexander Van der Bellen, who is running for reelection.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?

A presidential candidate must be an Austrian citizen, be eligible to vote in the National Assembly and be at least 35 years old on election day.

Members of ruling dynasties or families that reigned in the past are not eligible to run in the presidential election. This is to avoid a return to monarchy in Austria via the role of the Federal President.

Who can vote in these elections?

The only people allowed to vote in Austrian federal elections are Austrian citizens aged 16 or above.

That means foreigners – even those born and raised in Austria, are not entitled to choose a new president. Unless, of course, they take up Austrian citizenship (usually giving up their original citizenship).

Since Austria has a large proportion of foreigners in the population, many people will not be able to vote in these elections.

READ ALSO: ‘I pay taxes in Austria’: Anger as foreigners barred from Vienna council vote

In fact, some 18 percent of residents (or 1.4 million people) in Austria over the age of 16 do not have the right to vote because they are not citizens, with the highest concentration of ineligible people in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg.

In comparison, 20 years ago, Austria had just 580,000 people without the right to vote.

Statistics Austria data evaluated by the APA shows that around 30 percent of the voting-age population in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg are not entitled to vote. In Linz and Graz, it is about 25 percent.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s presidential election work?

However, there are some smaller communities in Austria where the number of people without the right to vote is even higher.

In Jungholz in Tyrol, 66 percent of the population are not eligible, followed by 51 percent in Mittelberg in Vorarlberg. Kittsee in Burgenland and Wolfsthal in Lower Austria also have high proportions of Slovakian residents who cannot vote.

Austrian citizenship

Currently, in Austria, if someone wants to take up citizenship via naturalisation, they must undergo an extensive and expensive process and fulfil specific criteria.

Generally, there needs to be at least ten years of lawful and uninterrupted residence in Austria. But there are exceptions for those with citizenship of an EU or EEA country, those born in Austria, or married to an Austrian, for example.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

The main hurdles, however, include having to give up any other citizenships, as Austria doesn’t allow for dual citizenship in naturalisation cases with few exceptions, and the payment of a high fee, which depends on the municipality, but could reach thousands of euros.

And though the topic of easing the requirements has come up several times in Austria, the country doesn’t seem any closer to changing its citizenship laws.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where in Europe can non-EU foreigners vote in local elections?

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