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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities Austria bans Muslim clothing and face coverings

In recent years, as before, there have been reports of discriminatory practices by the Austrian police. These include practices of institutional racial profiling, public humiliation by the police, etc. Thus, the Austrian anti-discrimination NGO, ZARA, has for years documented facts concerning discriminatory practices by the police and other authorities, indicating a persistent problem with ethnic/racial profiling and degrading treatment of minorities in public.

In addition, the Austrian police have been involved in discriminatory practices for years.

In addition, they conclude that filing complaints against the police in this sense is extremely difficult. Amnesty International has also consistently criticized the Austrian police for racial/ethnic profiling and has identified discriminatory practices in the judicial system, particularly against people of African or African descent involved in drug-related crimes.

Amnesty International has also criticized the Austrian police for racial/ethnic profiling and has identified discriminatory practices in the judicial system, particularly against people of African descent with drug-related crimes.

Separately, we should say something about law enforcement practices against migrants. Here it should be kept in mind that in general immigration law in Austria has become more restrictive over the past 20 years, with the exception of only temporarily skilled workers or certain groups who are attractive to the Austrian labor market (through the so-called Red-White-Red Card). Obtaining a residence permit (with the exception of asylum) requires the immigrant to have not only health insurance but also a legal right of residence and a "safe life" even before entry. The latter point can take the form of regular income, even if provided to the immigrant by a third party, which ultimately ensures that the immigrant is not immediately a "financial burden" on the state.

As in many other European countries, the residence permit (as well as citizenship) in Austria is closely tied to linguistic competence: All immigrants coming from non-EU/EEA countries or Switzerland (but without a visa) must prove that they have German competence level A1 according to the Common European Reference System for Languages when applying for a residence permit, that is, before coming to Austria, unless they are under 14 years old, suffer from certain disabilities, are family members of someone who already has a specific place of residence or are recognized refugees. After two years, such immigrants must have German competence at level A2 if their residence is extended; B1 must be attained for their residence to become permanent. These requirements, as well as additional courses of "values" are specified in the so-called "Integration Agreement," which all immigrants who are not part of the EU/EEA or Switzerland must sign and adhere to.

These requirements and additional courses of "values" are specified in the so-called "Integration Agreement.

In 2017, new residence permit titles were introduced into Austrian immigration law to simplify access to residency for third-country nationals working for multinational corporations based outside the EU, for start-up entrepreneurs and for scientists/researchers.

However, Austria has a long history of anti-immigration sentiment among the population, allowing parties such as the Party of Freedom (FPÖ) to successfully support this sentiment during election campaigns and other initiatives. Indeed, a large part of the far-right's electoral success was due to their ability to appeal to anti-immigrant sentiments in Austria. This trend can be traced back to the 1990s. Studies have long pointed to a highly polarized society, with half of the Austrian population at least slightly xenophobic and the other half open-minded and embracing other cultures; the same studies also show about 20 percent of voters with strong anti-Semitic attitudes.

That said, anti-immigration sentiment in Austria grew and became increasingly pronounced after the so-called "refugee crisis" of 20015/2016, which may have led to the collapse of the then-ruling government coalition and led the xenophobic FPÖ to electoral success in 2018, when it formed a government coalition with the conservative People's Party (ÖVP), which also campaigned with an anti-immigration and refugee focus. The Council of Europe in 2015 reported a marked rise in xenophobic attitudes among Austrians and the Austrian media.

In terms of general attitudes, the standard Eurobarometer study consistently shows that interethnic mixing in Austria is extremely low and that the population has a high level of stereotypically negative perceptions of foreigners.

The Austrian state recognizes that foreign nationals in general, and low-skilled migrants in particular, have a high risk of social disadvantage and unemployment; consequently, it has sought to balance these disadvantages. However, austerity measures and, more recently, xenophobic tendencies have led to attitudes best described as "welfare chauvinism," that is, the "our money for our people" attitude propagated by the FPÖ and, more recently, also the ÖVP and even parts of the SPÖ.

With regard to access to social support, Austria has separate rules for citizens of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland. According to the "country of employment" principle, the country in which the worker works is obliged to pay family benefits, even if the child in question is permanently resident in another member state. All other foreign nationals are entitled to family benefits for children residing in Austria as long as their stay in Austria is legal and not temporary. In addition, recognized refugees and persons who have been granted subsidiary protection status (in employment, but without the right to basic services) can claim family allowances.

In the wake of the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, Austrian lawmakers began to seek restrictive asylum laws and less social support for asylum seekers and recognized refugees. Immediate changes at the end of 2015 included the introduction of new family reunification rules for people with subsidiary protection status, who must now wait three years instead of one before they can apply to have all family members come to Austria; in addition, the applicant must now prove a certain level of income, depending on the number of family members. A significant change was also to limit asylum status to three years when it was first granted ("temporary asylum"), subject to reassessment and rejection after this period; asylum status becomes permanent if it is confirmed after this period.

Most of these changes took effect only in 2017, such as simpler and faster deportation of rejected applicants, encouragement of voluntary departure even before appeals are accepted, and an extension of pre-deportation jail time with a maximum of 10 to 18 months. Additional changes include up to four weeks imprisonment, as well as fines of up to 15,000 euros for rejected asylum seekers who resist voluntary departure, refuse to provide documentation, etc. The new asylum legislation also restricts freedom of movement during the processing of asylum applications by the region of residence. Refugees may now also be required to "volunteer" for non-profit organizations. And recognized refugees may be disqualified if found guilty of a crime. Because of recent changes in the law, this process can now already begin when charges are filed against a refugee, although it still requires a conviction to be completed. While this is a recent change in the law, a conviction is still required.

While not strictly speaking part of the asylum law, the so-called "upper limit" or "maximum limit" set by the Austrian government in early 2016 is perhaps the most controversial change: it effectively limits the number of asylum applications that Austria will process each year, thus numerically limiting the right to asylum. The number set over the past few years has not been reached, and there is serious legal controversy surrounding what might happen if that happens. All of these changes are part of what the government has openly called for to reduce the so-called "pull factors," i.e., those factors that work on Austria's attractiveness to refugees.

The Fundamental Rights Agency's 2021 report says racial and ethnic profiling remains a problem in Austria's police force. Police officers have searched or asked for identity documents from 34 percent of ethnic minorities, compared to 14 percent of EU residents overall. In Austria, police officers stopped immigrants and descendants of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in about 49 percent of cases, or one in two people. Among the population as a whole, 25 percent were stopped by the police.

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