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Recommended citation:
IRB - Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: Information on whether Austria has a refugee system and on the percentage of asylum seekers accepted and rejected [AUT19692.E], 09 February 1995 (available at ecoi.net)
http://www.ecoi.net/local_link/169138/270373_en.html (accessed 21 November 2017)

Information on whether Austria has a refugee system and on the percentage of asylum seekers accepted and rejected [AUT19692.E]

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 asylum seekers.

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 country.

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.

References

Amnesty International, Vienna. 7 February 1995. Telephone interview with representative.

Asylum Coordination Network, Vienna. 7 February 1995. Telephone interview with chairwoman.

Attachments

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 Laws." (NEXIS)

_____. 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." (NEXIS)