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IN NUMBERS: Who are the asylum seekers trying to settle in Austria?

By the end of August, some 56,000 people had come to Austria seeking asylum. Where are they from and what are their chances of getting it?

IN NUMBERS: Who are the asylum seekers trying to settle in Austria?
Austrian citizens and asylum seekers march during a pro-refugee protest called "Let them stay" in Vienna, Austria on November 26, 2016. - The issue of migration has been a polarising one in the country. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

In May 2022, Austria’s Interior Ministry launched new controls looking to reduce instances of “smuggling and asylum abuse”. Since then, it has apprehended thousands of people either trying to illegally cross the borders or trying to smuggle others in. In most cases, the attempts happened in Burgenland, Austria’s most eastern state which borders Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia.

The people came primarily from Afghanistan, India, Syria, Tunisia and Pakistan, government authorities said at a press conference on Monday. “More than 2,500 police and border patrol actions were carried out,” said Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP), according to public broadcaster ORF.

According to Karner, the actions aim to “support those people who need our help, but to show a clear line when people exploit or even abuse the system”.

READ ALSO: Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

Since the beginning of May, 440 traffickers have been apprehended, 172 of them in Burgenland, stated Franz Ruf, Director General for Public Security. In the whole of the previous year, there were a total of 441 traffickers, and in 2020, 311.

Who are the migrants?

By the end of August, Austria had received 56,000 asylum applications, the interior minister said. Almost 15,000 of them came from people from India and Tunisia, who have “practically no chance of asylum”, according to the authorities.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Which Austrian states have the most foreign residents?

From January to August, people from Afghanistan were in first place with 12,000 asylum applications, followed by Syrians with about 10,000 applications, and Indians filed 7,600 applications for asylum in the first eight months.

According to the ministry, the trend is likely to continue in September. This is because the number of people applying for asylum has “increased dynamically, dramatically”.

What is the difference between a refugee, an asylum-seeker and a migrant?

According to the UN Refugee Agency:

“People who are forced to flee their country in fear of persecution are refugees. They have legal protections under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as other legal instruments. UNHCR, governments and humanitarian organizations offer assistance to refugees, who are recognized by State authorities or UNHCR, because it is too dangerous for them to return home. Asylum-seekers are people whose request for refugee status, or asylum, is being processed.

READ ALSO: Austria wants ‘deportation centres’ in Asia to curb Afghan refugee influx

“People who move to a different country primarily to improve their lives by finding work or gaining education, or to reunite with family, are called migrants.

“This distinction is important. States interact with refugees through specific norms dealing with refugee protection and asylum defined in regional and international frameworks.”

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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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