In a telephone interview on 7 February
1995, a Vienna representative of Amnesty International provided the
following information. The asylum policy has become much more
restrictive over the last several years as a result of an asylum
law passed in 1992. Consequently, the number of asylum claims has
drastically dropped. The asylum policy is under the jurisdiction of
the Ministry of the Interior, and there is no legal observance, nor
are there court hearings, in the asylum process. Approximately 80
per cent of asylum seekers are immediately taken into detention,
where language barriers and the general absence of legal counsel
pose difficulties for the claimant. After the application process,
which takes a week, the refugee claimant may be placed in
administration detention for up to six months pending the outcome.
Refugee claimants often are not permitted to remain in the country
while their claims are being considered.
The initial application for asylum is
usually rejected, but the claimant may appeal. If the appeal is
also rejected, the claimant is normally returned to the country of
origin, not a third country. During the refugee determination
process, Austrian authorities often contact the country of origin's
embassy in Austria and provide such information as the name of the
claimant. There have been instances of refugee claimants being
forcibly returned to their country of origin and met at the airport
by government authorities. The Austrian authorities may consider
even two hours spent in a third country as sufficient to disqualify
a refugee claimant.
The representative quoted figures provided
by the Ministry of the Interior indicating that 684 refugee claims
were granted in 1994, which corresponds to 7.6 per cent of all
In a telephone interview on 7 February
1995, the chairwoman of the Asylum Coordination Network in Vienna
provided the following information. The Network is a
nongovernmental umbrella group for organizations working on behalf
of refugees. The chairwoman stated that as a result of the asylum
law passed on 1 June 1992, the Austrian refugee policy has become
very restrictive, and asylum applications have been reduced by 80
per cent over the last 3 years. The percentage of refugee claimants
granted asylum has also been significantly reduced. The acceptance
rate in 1994 was 7.6 per cent. The low acceptance rate results from
the government's view that every third country is a safe country,
and from a reluctance to give credence to refugee claimants'
allegations of persecution.
The chairwoman added that most asylum
seekers receive no assistance, financial or otherwise. Refugee
claimants who are apprehended at border crossings after attempts at
illegal entry are often placed in custody for up to six months. It
is difficult for nongovernmental organizations to contact refugee
claimants who are in custody. There is little consistency in the
granting of asylum. A case recently occurred in which the
authorities attempted to forcibly return a claimant to a third
country where the claimant had spent ninety minutes. Many claimants
are returned to their country of origin rather than to a third
For additional information on the refugee
system in Austria, please consult the attachments.
This response was prepared after
researching publicly accessible information currently available to
the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does
not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular
claim to refugee status or asylum.
Amnesty International, Vienna. 7
February 1995. Telephone interview with representative.
Asylum Coordination Network, Vienna. 7
February 1995. Telephone interview with chairwoman.
Inter Press Service. 29 September 1994.
Senthil Ratnasabapathy. "Austria: Village Wins Top UNHCR Award for
Work With Refugees." (NEXIS)
_____. 14 June 1994. Senthil
Ratnasabapathy. "Austria-Refugees: Human Rights Groups Attack
Asylum Policy." (NEXIS)
_____. 26 May 1993. Senthil
Ratnasabapathy. "Refugees: Austria Under Fire for Its Tough Asylum
_____. 13 April 1994. Senthil
Ratnasabapathy. "Refugees: UNHCR Strikes Austria From 'Safe Third
Country' List." (NEXIS)
Manchester Guardian Weekly
[London]. 3 October 1993. "Austria Attempts to Curb Refugee Flow."