Why is Austria resorting to tent accommodation for asylum seekers?

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Why is Austria resorting to tent accommodation for asylum seekers?
The number of asylum seekers and displaced people crossing into Austria has seen a sharp decrease in 2023. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

As tents for asylum seekers are being put up in some parts of Austria, a dispute is ongoing between federal and state governments.


The number of asylum seekers and displaced persons arriving in Austria has been increasing since earlier this year.

Now, as winter approaches, the Ministry of the Interior is resorting to temporary accommodation options for people in the form of tents on federal government property.

By Monday afternoon (October 17th), 25 tents had been set up across Austria with 15 in Thalham, Upper Austria, and 10 in Carinthia (in Villach and Klagenfurt).

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The Federal Agency for Reception and Support Services (BBU) says the tents are only intended for young men who arrive in Austria alone. Women and children should still be housed in permanent accommodation.


Andreas Achrainer, Managing Director of the BBU, said the purpose of the tents was to avoid homelessness. He also added that the reception centre at Traiskirchen in Lower Austria is now overcrowded.

According to the Wiener Zeitung, only Vienna and Burgenland have housed their quota of asylum seekers and displaced people so far. Carinthia is the worst performing state at only 62 percent. 


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Caritas criticised the use of tents. Christoph Pinter of UNHCR Austria said it was "incomprehensible" that tents were needed for asylum seekers. "The basic figures have hardly increased, but the federal states are providing too little accommodation," he said.

"We have a federal solidarity crisis, not a refugee crisis," Klaus Schwertner, executive director of Caritas in the Archdiocese of Vienna, said on Twitter.

Which states are disputing the tent accommodation in Austria?

The controversial decision by the Austrian Federal Government to set up tent accommodation has particularly angered politicians in Upper Austria where 15 tents are now standing near the asylum reception centre in Thalham.

On Monday, Mayor Ferdinand Aigner (ÖVP) of St. Georgen im Attergau, Upper Austria, announced there will be a protest on the Austria National Day holiday on October 26th. 

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Aigner said the protest will start in the centre of St. Georgen before marching to the Westautobahn. He has not ruled out completely blocking the motorway.

In a report by Der Standard, Aigner says the local community is not “xenophobic or right wing”, and that the municipality's "humane". "We help when it is necessary. But now it is enough, now it is too much", he said.

He criticised the federal government, saying the authorities chose the "stupidest solution": "In a dictatorial manner and without consideration for the population, tents were simply erected here".

"This is inhumane and shameful for a state like Austria", he added.

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Aigner also raised fears about the tents being housed by male asylum seekers and said local women and children were scared. He cancelled plans to turn off street lightning at night as an energy-saving measure: "I don't dare do that now - no matter how much the electricity costs.".


Where are the next planned locations for tent accommodation?

Tyrol and Vorarlberg are next on the list for tent accommodation for asylum seekers, although there is also expected to be resistance to the plans.

At the weekend, leaders of both provinces said they were urgently looking for more permanent housing options instead of putting up tents, report ORF.

And in Lower Austria, Asylum Councillor Gottfried Waldhäusl (FPÖ) has outright rejected the plans.


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