Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.



Since the so-called "migration crisis" of 2015/2016, Austria has actively struggled with a marked increase in generally xenophobic, racist or anti-Islamic sentiments as well as hate crimes. Most of them are committed by the extreme right, with many of them also classified as violations of the Law Banning National Socialism. However, although there was a turning point in public and political opinion about refugees/immigrants at the end of 2015, it is important to understand that this picture is not a radical explosion, but an intensification or perhaps even a revival of anti-immigrant sentiment, which has a long history in Austria.

At the same time, legislation is becoming increasingly restrictive, perhaps even more clearly continuing a trend that began in the 1990s, after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In particular, language (i.e., German) has become perhaps the main means of regulating and limiting immigration (through requirements) as well as access to citizenship; language is also a controversial tool for promoting integration through bans on language courses in schools.

Also in terms of legislation, the so-called Islam Act has caused some controversy by applying restrictions on Islam that no other recognized religious community in Austria faces. Both anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments and actions have increased dramatically in the period under review, especially on the Internet. Vandalism, verbal violence and discrimination also remain a serious problem. The current trend among Austrian lawmakers is to apply stricter laws. During this period, some tabloid/sensationalist media have also played a significant role in reinforcing xenophobic and racist attitudes, reinforcing the main electoral positions of extreme right-wing political actors.

As for recommendations, the following can be listed:

  1. General recommendations for accession to international agreements and conventions:

    It is strongly recommended that Austria fully ratify Protocol no. 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  2. General recommendations for adjusting the legal framework:

    It is generally recommended that Austria eliminate any discrepancies between regional legislation ("Landesrecht") and federal law ("Bundesrecht") regarding discrimination. With respect to discriminatory and xenophobic acts by the media, it is also recommended that the Press Council be given a stronger mandate and power to record media violations. Provisions should also be made to improve reporting and documentation of discriminatory acts and hate crimes in accordance with international standards, including detailed statistics. Regarding immigration and refugees, it is strongly recommended that Austria separate "values" from "linguistic competence" in its residence and citizenship tests, and that it renounce any discrimination based on linguistic practices of linguistic minorities. Rather, Austria should bet on multilingualism while strengthening German culture.

  3. General recommendations to the executive in the field of law enforcement and human rights:

    In general, it is recommended that Austria continues its efforts to raise awareness among executive agencies in the field of law enforcement with regard to human rights and anti-discrimination guidelines. In addition, it is recommended that a strictly independent body be established that is completely independent of ministerial or political control; this body should be empowered to document, advise and investigate discriminatory actions by law enforcement officials or the judiciary. Politicians should be aware of their heightened moral responsibility and therefore refrain from creating, disseminating, or endorsing false, exaggerated, or as yet unsubstantiated allegations against minorities. Maximum transparency regarding racist, xenophobic or anti-Semitic activity is required in all executive agencies, including the findings of internal investigations and disciplinary measures, which must be decisive and act as a deterrent.

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