EU Resettlement Network

Austria

    Resettlement Quota and Actors

    Start of ad-hoc or pilot programme: 2010

    Main national actors: the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum, the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and several NGOs (e.g. the Red Cross, Diakonie, Caritas);

    Resettlement numbers

    Year

    Anticipated

    Arrivals

    Nationality => Country of Asylum

    Ethnic or other minority (if applicable)

    2014-2015

    (HAP II)

    *beginning autumn 2014

    1,000

     

    Syrians => Lebanon, Jordan & Turkey

     

    2013-2014

    (HAP I)

    *beginning autumn 2013

    500

    470*

     

    * as of Sep 2014

    Syrians => Lebanon, Jordan & Turkey

     

    2010

    31

    31

    Iraqi => North of Iraq

    Christians

     

    UNHCR submission categories considered for resettlement

    X Women and girls at risk

    X Survivors of violence and/or torture

    X Older refugees at risk

    X Refugees with physical protection needs

    X Refugees with medical needs or disabilities (6%)

    Background

    Austria has a long history of helping refugees fleeing from war, torture and persecution. Since 1945, more than two million refugees have come to Austria. More than 700.000 have stayed. As a consequence of different crises, large numbers of refugees sought help in Austria. Beside the regular asylum procedure Austria also provided international protection to people who have been admitted through admission programmes.[1] Today the legal basis of recognizing resettled persons as refugees can be found in the Austrian Asylum Act (Art. 3 para 4). This provision allows non-nationals to be granted refugee status ex officio if Austria has obligated itself to do so. In practice, resettled persons undergo a shortened asylum procedure to be granted refugee status upon arrival in Austria, including an interview with a caseworker.

    In December 2010, the Austrian government agreed to the intake of 31 Christian Iraqi refugees who had been persecuted on the basis of their beliefs. The initiative was not part of the UN resettlement scheme, but was initiated by the Catholic Church in Austria, which also provided the financial assets to implement the operation.

    In autumn 2013 Austria began implementing a Humanitarian Admission Programme (HAP) for Syrian refugees. The first part of the HAP (HAP I), with a quota of 500 Syrian refugees, was jointly organized by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (the former Federal Asylum Office), the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (the former Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The programme was designed to help Syrian refugees directly from the crisis region and was offered separately from the ongoing regular asylum procedure.

    On 19 April 2014, Federal Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner declared that the HAP, which supports the most vulnerable refugees, among them women, children and persecuted minorities such as Christians, would be expanded by 1000 Syrian refugees (HAP II). With this initiative, Austria follows its humanitarian tradition, and is ranked second after Germany with regard to EU Member States offering protection to Syrian refugees.

    The main aim of the HAP is to support Syria’s neighbouring states and to set a strong signal for solidarity in the international community. The increase in numbers was justified by the current dramatic situation in Syria.

    RESETTLEMENT CRITERIA

    Both the HAP I and the HAP II for Syrian refugees follow a two-fold approach where different criteria apply:

    1. Programme in cooperation with UNHCR

    The Humanitarian Admission Programme in cooperation with UNHCR is designed for particularly vulnerable Syrian refugees. Therefore, religion or ethnic backgrounds are no specific qualifications for admission. Persons with family links in Austria may be given preference, but they also have to fulfill the vulnerability criteria.

    Particularly vulnerable refugees may include women and girls at risk, survivors of violence and/or torture, refugees with physical protection needs, refugees with medical needs or disabilities, and children and adolescents at risk.

    Overall, 250 refugees have been admitted to Austria in cooperation with UNHCR (HAP I) and another 600 refugees will be admitted through this part of the programme in 2014/2015 (HAP II).

    2. Family Reunification Programme implemented by the Federal Ministry of the Interior

    The Programme by the Federal Ministry of the Interior is intended for refugees who have family members in Austria and for persons who are exceptionally vulnerable such as women and children.

    In the scope of the HAP I, 250 refugees, who were suggested by various religious groups, arrived in Austria. For the HAP II, 400 Syrian refugees in need of protection shall be admitted via the Programme by the Federal Ministry of Interior. 200 of these persons shall be chosen based on elaborated suggestions by the Archdiocese of Vienna. The other 200 refugees shall be chosen directly by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, where proposals for admission of family members could be submitted during a period of two weeks in summer 2014.

    Neither part of the Programme listed any criteria related to integration, such as particular language or professional skills.

    IDENTIFICATION & SELECTION

    Submissions of potential resettlement candidates are made by UNHCR, civil and clerical organizations, or directly by individual proposal in a certain timeframe to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The Federal Ministry of the Interior examines the submitted cases in cooperation with the Federal Office of Immigration and Asylum and consequently decides if the person/s will be allowed to enter Austria. Upon arrival in Austria the refugees undergo a shortened asylum procedure in order to be granted refugee status.

    The length of time from the selection phase until the day of departure to Austria depends on the organization of transport, and can be lengthened by factors specific to the particular refugee group or situation (e.g. lack of travel documents, medical or personal issues).

    FAMILY REUNIFICATION

    Beside HAP, the Austrian Asylum Act (Art. 34) provides for the family reunification of recognized refugees with their core family (parents/legal representatives of minor children, minor children, and spouse/registered partners) who will then also be granted refugee status.

    If family reunification is not possible under the asylum scheme, family members of refugees may obtain a “Rot-Weiß-Rot-Card plus” under a quota regulation according to the Settlement and Residence Act (Art. 4 para 1).

    RESETTLEMENT IN PRACTICE

    PRE-DEPARTURE

    Cultural Orientation: is currently offered to refugees submitted by UNHCR. Refugees submitted by the UNHCR under the first part of the HAP were provided with an information leaflet (in Arabic) to prepare them with core information for their arrival and stay in Austria. As more information for arriving refugees appeared to be advantageous, the second part of the HAP includes Cultural Orientation Trainings lasting for two days. These will be conducted by IOM Austria together with a bi-cultural trainer. Contents include geography, history, family, educational system, social system, labour market system and health care as well as political issues, e.g. democracy or rights and duties.

    Medical Exam: Medical support is provided by IOM in the countries of departure and includes measures on public health (tuberculosis and polio), pre-departure fit-to-travel checks (intended to ensure that people travel in a safe and dignified manner, are fit to travel, received appropriate assistance when required, and do not pose a hazard to other travelers or receiving communities) as well as follow-up medical services such as medical escorts.

    Travel arrangements: The refugees’ travel to Austria is organized in groups on scheduled flights.

    INTEGRATION IN PRACTICE

    RECEPTION

    Upon arrival in Austria, the refugees are welcomed by the Austrian authorities. All refugees are taken to the initial reception center in Traiskirchen in the district of Baden close to Vienna. The refugees stay in the center for a limited time where they are offered medical support and receive their asylum status after an interview. Afterwards the refugees are transferred to their foreseen destination.

    PLACEMENT POLICIES

    Given the twofold approach of the HAP, most Syrian refugees who came to Austria via the family reunification programme are accommodated by their relatives already living in Austria. The refugees who were identified by UNHCR are accommodated in the framework of the basic welfare system for asylum seekers (Grundversorgung) for a maximum of 4 months until a permanent living arrangement is found.

    INTEGRATION SERVICES & SUPPORT

    During their first four months, the resettled refugees are supported within the scope of the basic welfare system for asylum seekers and persons under international protection (Grundversorgung). The provinces are responsible for the implementation of the basic welfare system, which covers accommodation in municipalities as well as health insurance and basic counselling services.

    In spring 2014, the Austrian government released a call on integration measures for the refugees identified by UNHCR under HAP I. The integration measures include initial support services and counselling; literacy and language courses; education and employment counseling; and counselling on accommodation possibilities. The measures are currently implemented by a working group consisting of the Red Cross, Diakonie and Caritas. 

    However, integration steps are in the early stages and will require further coordination between the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities.

    USE OF EUROPEAN FUNDS

    In order to ensure the efficient implementation of the HAP Austria requested funding from the European Commission for its HAP. In a first request Austria has been given funding for its HAP through the Preparatory Action on Emergency Resettlement. Further funding instruments of the European Union may support the Austrian HAP in future as well.

    EVALUATIONS

    An evaluation of HAP I on behalf of UNHCR and ICMC started recently.

    STRENGTHS & CHALLENGES

    Since the HAP has only been operational for a short period, it is too soon to make conclusions at this point. 

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