Politics For Members

How Austria's centre-left SPÖ party plans to change integration policy

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
How Austria's centre-left SPÖ party plans to change integration policy
SPÖ leader Andreas Babler. ((c) Andreas Babler)

Asylum, migration, and integration policies are a much-debated issue in Austria, particularly as the country heads to its national elections in the fall. What are the centre-left SPÖ plans?


National elections in Austria will take place this fall, and one of the most debated issues - certainly one that has been driving voters for the past few years - is the refugee and asylum policy debates. 

While the far-right party FPÖ has gained popularity with extremist views such as closing off Austria entirely for asylum seekers, the centre-right ÖVP has also presented tougher stances. The chancellor's party has publicly defended the creation of "asylum centres" for processing outside of the EU borders. Chancellor Karl Nehammer has also fully supported the UK's plan to deport asylum seekers to "safe third countries"

A tougher stance on refugee policies has proved popular in Austria, and the centre-left SPÖ party has also seemed to lean toward stricter ideas more recently. However, since the party got a new leadership, a precise migration programme had not been presented yet. However, the issue was pressing, particularly following the party's poor performance in the EU elections, when migration played a key role.

READ ALSO: How a change in the profile of asylum seekers is impacting Austria

So what are the party's plans?

The SPÖ presented a new” masterplan" for asylum, migration, and integration. According to the SPÖ, the "Doskozil-Kaiser paper," which has existed since 2018, has been "sharpened," resulting in an "offensive paper" with approaches for action, said SPÖ leader Andreas Babler.

The aim was to "ensure balance and order" under "the premise of humanity", said Babler at a press conference in Vienna.

The plan's main points include faster procedures at the EU's external borders, a fair distribution of refugees within the EU, and sanctions against countries that refuse to do so. With this, the SPÖ wants to reach a 75 percent reduction in the number of asylum applications. 

For example, the party leaders mentioned Hungary, where there were only 45 applications in 2023, compared to almost 60,000 in Austria. They said Hungary had to be persuaded to cooperate by exhausting all legal and political means.

The SPÖ proposes procedure centres along the EU's external borders so that procedures can be completed more quickly and people do not hand themselves over to smugglers. The EU should set up "common centres for asylum applications", for example, in embassies. 

People should only be distributed within the EU once the asylum applications have been assessed favourably. As a first step, cooperation between individual states could occur without the consent of all EU member states.

READ ALSO: When do Austrians think an immigrant is successfully integrated?


'Integration year' and deportation

The SPÖ plan contains an "extended mandatory integration year" that would ensure refugees get "German and values courses." However, severe penalties, including deportation, would be imposed for serious offences or "repeated minor crimes." 

Instead of mass accommodation, the SPÖ proposes small centres enabling better contact with the population. Women's rights should also become a "central guiding principle for integration". Women's self-determination is the top priority, said SPÖ women's spokesperson Eva-Maria Holzleitner.

The party reiterated that asylum is fundamentally a human right that should never be questioned. However, those who are denied their asylum request would be deported to their country of origin or safe third countries, the party advocates. 

READ ALSO: Who needs to take Austria’s integration exam?


Criticism from the right

Over the weekend, party representatives from far-right FPÖ and centre-right ÖVP have come out to criticise the SPÖ proposals. 

An FPÖ spokesperson said the plan is "pure PR policy" and that, in truth, the SPÖ had "always opened the door to illegal mass immigration under the guise of asylum". The ÖVP said the proposals are just "headlines instead of concrete proposals for solutions". 

In a press release, the party said that no capacity limit was presented, showing "that the SPÖ has still not realised that illegal migration cannot be countered by further squeezing the Austrian taxpayer"



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also