UNHCR calls on Austrian parliament to modify draft asylum bill

Briefing Notes, 1 April 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 April 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is worried about new draft changes to the Austrian Asylum Act that further restrict asylum seeker rights and could, if implemented, be harmful to the interests of children in particular.

The changes under discussion are the fourth set of revisions since the Asylum Act entered into force in 2006. The draft is set to be discussed in Parliament next week and is scheduled to be adopted in April 2011.

Of particular concern to us are provisions that would require all new asylum seekers to stay in a reception centre for up to seven days, with possible detention for anyone who breaks this rule. This would in our view constitute an unjustified restriction on freedom of movement. It could also prevent new asylum seekers from being able to get freely chosen legal advice or support. Even a child awaiting the outcome of an asylum application and whose parents already reside legally in Austria would be affected by this new law. Families could be separated for up to a week.

A further problematic aspect of the bill concerns detention of children. While children below the age of 14 are not affected by this, those between the ages of 14 and 18 may be subject to being detained. UNHCR calls on Members of the Austrian Parliament to give priority to the best interests of the child to ensure compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Vienna: Ruth Schöffl on mobile +43 699 1459 5307