Over the past five months, 21,000 people have applied for asylum in Austria. That is more than twice as many compared to the same period in 2021. Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) attributes this increase mainly to increased controls and “aggressive advertising by people smugglers”. He now wants to take various measures to counter the development.
Austria’s security forces have arrested 270 people smugglers in the past five months. Because of the war in Ukraine, they are aggressively advertising that borders are open in Europe. In addition, they would promise jobs, well-functioning health care and childcare. As a result, more and more people would move to Europe for economic reasons, even though they had almost no chance of asylum. In a press conference, Karner cited people from Tunisia, Pakistan, India and Turkey as examples. However, Afghanistan and Syria are still in the top two countries of origin. So far, 57,000 refugees from Ukraine have applied for asylum, mostly women and children or young people under the age of 18.
Pay attention to different routes
Although the refugees have different routes, most come through Turkey. Karner will therefore travel there on Saturday together with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) and to Egypt. The two politicians want to meet their colleagues and talk about, among other things, the fight against people smuggling and support for border security. Karner plans to better protect the EU’s external and Austrian borders. In particular, 55 additional security forces will be deployed in Burgenland by August. In addition, technical monitoring with thermal imagers, drones or heart rate detectors must be strengthened.
More staff for asylum procedures
Among the other measures Karner presented on Friday is an information campaign designed to warn refugees in their countries of origin “of the criminal activities of the smugglers”. In addition, more staff is needed to be able to take asylum-related decisions quickly. In this regard, Karner mentioned the accelerated asylum procedure, which can be used if the refugee has not motivated the application. These people will be assigned to a federal asylum center within 72 hours, the first clarification must be made within 21 days.
Half of the evicted are criminals
“Only if these different measures work together can we survive in the fight against people smuggling and illegal migration,” says Karner. According to him, the external borders between the EU and North Africa, the Western Balkans and Hungary as well as the Austrian border must be respected. In the past five months, not only have asylum applications increased, but so has the number of people whose procedures have not even started because they have returned or moved to another country. About half of those forcibly evicted are criminals.
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