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Austria: UNHCR concerned about new asylum seeker policy

Briefing notes

Austria: UNHCR concerned about new asylum seeker policy

1 October 2002

UNHCR is concerned about Austria's new policy of barring some categories of asylum seekers from government-run shelters while their requests for asylum are being processed. The new regulation, which takes effect today (October 1st), could lead to hundreds of people being evicted from government-run accommodation. UNHCR fears that the regulation could also trigger an exodus of asylum seekers from Austria to other European Union countries. UNHCR sees the new regulation as unhelpful, especially at a time when the European Union is trying to harmonize its asylum policies to avoid secondary movements of asylum seekers, or so called "asylum shopping."

The new Austrian ruling bars all asylum seekers from countries negotiating entry into the European Union from accommodation in refugee camps and other shelters run by the federal government. Also, under the new ruling, nationals of Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Yugoslavia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will have access to government-run shelters only while their original application for asylum is being considered, but cannot remain in them while they appeal a negative first decision.

UNHCR last week expressed its concern about the new regulation to Austria's federal government in Vienna. UNHCR regrets the fact that in interviews with the media, Austrian officials implied that the new ruling had the support of the UNHCR, which is not the case. There is nothing in UNHCR's policy statements that can be construed as condoning the hardening of reception conditions for asylum seekers in Austria.