Austria: Parliament must overturn proposal to deny refugee protection to thousands

The Austrian National Council must reject changes to its asylum law that would curtail access to protection for thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers and breach its obligations under international law, said Amnesty International ahead of the vote.

The proposed ‘special measures’ would fast-track procedures, effectively giving police and border guards sweeping powers to arrest, detain and swiftly return or forcibly deport asylum-seekers.

"These amendments are a glaring attempt to keep people out of Austria and its asylum system"

Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia

“These amendments are a glaring attempt to keep people out of Austria and its asylum system. If adopted, Austria would treat people fleeing conflict and persecution as a threat to national security, joining a growing list of countries undermining the very principle of protection from war and persecution,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Austria’s National Council is today voting on the package of proposed amendments to its asylum law, including:

  • emergency measures at Austria’s land borders that effectively treat asylum-seekers as a threat to national security
  • allowing police to prevent the entry of any arrivals, including those who indicate a desire to claim asylum and to carry out returns once they have crossed
  • curtailing asylum applications at land borders, where police officers would be given the authority to conduct admissibility procedures in the event that returns cannot be enforced
  • permitting police to arrest asylum-seekers who apply for international protection in Austria and detain them for a maximum period of 14 days (the current period is five days).

The application of the measures proposed under the amendment would be conditional to a government decree enforcing the special measures for the maintenance of public order and the safeguarding of internal security, adopted in agreement with parliament. They would be applied as long as border controls are reinstated.