Proposed Restrictions on Asylum-Seekers in Austria

JLH has translated another pair of articles from Austria, this time concerning a proposal to intern asylum-seekers for a month after their arrival in Austria, while they are processed.

He includes this introduction:

The first item below, which I found on the ÖVP website, is a succinct explanation of Interior Minister Maria Fekter’s plan to require a one month residence-in-place for new immigrants, and her reasons for it.

The second is an opinion piece in Der Kurier by an editor who would obviously be right at home at the NYT. He unleashes his best sarcastic shots at the plan and at Fekter. But the editorial is headed by an invitation to “join the discussion.” Since I know Der Kurier as the paper of the man in the street, I looked at the several pages of replies, keeping count of how many agreed with the editorial and how many disagreed. When I got up to twenty-five against and five for, I started to skim and discovered an overwhelming majority who supported Fekter’s idea. I have added just four of them at the end. The first one is from someone who agrees with the editor. The other three represent the tenor of those who disagreed with the editorial. One more case of the elites vs. the people.

From the ÖVP website:

Residence Requirement in Initial Intake Centers

Interior Minister, Maria Fekter reacts to the anxieties of the public in the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) press conference: “If the concern is that people have too much freedom to move around, we must react to that.” In concrete terms, there is to be a requirement for asylum applicants to stay in an intake center for the first 28 days or one month. No imprisonment, Fekter emphasizes. During this time it will be determined whether Austria is agreeable to the asylum process.

There is clear provision for such a requirement through the European Court, to which Fekter intends to adhere fully. Therefore, this requirement will have a time limit. There will have to be a comprehensive infrastructure for medical and psychological care, as well as everything from legal counsel to the ability to buy necessities. The arrangement is intended to avoid cases like the 58 Kurds who were smuggled into Austria in October, made an asylum application and then disappeared among the illegals. Fekter says of Austria: “I do not want to become the marketplace for smugglers.”

Fekter says there will be further consultations at he Austrian People’s Party conclave in Altenbach, with her Social-Democratic opposite number, Norbert Darabos and at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

From: Der Kurier:

Theme of the Day: Fekter’s Internment Plan:

The Minister of the Interior Want to Lock them All Up, says Kurier

January 10, 2010

Editor, Ricardo Peyerl

Join the Discussion!

The new law that restricts the movements of asylum applicants was strict enough for ÖVP Minister of the Interior Maria Fekter for just ten days. Since January 1, 2010, the residents of the Initial Intake Centers (previously refugee camps) Traiskirchen and Thalham may not leave the local administrative district. Of course, they can still step out into the street during the day, at least in Thalham, but at night there is a curfew.

Now Mrs. Fekter wants to enact an old demand by Suzanne Winter — the FPÖ representative convicted of hate-speech — and just put blameless asylum seekers into barracks for a month. Even if she beautifies it as “Requirement to be present” and rejects the word “imprison,” it is exactly that: imprisoning without any grounds for suspicion men, women, and children who are seeking asylum in Austria. From the start, we consider them capable of criminal acts or of wanting to disappear and (just to carry through with Eberau*) we call it “protecting the public.” This idea comes from that very Maria Fekter who recently celebrated the idea of transforming the police into a human rights organization.

Maria Fekter says she got the idea of camps for asylum seekers from the UK. Of course. The island that — after a thousand years — has finally repealed the law that required a six-month quarantine for entering house pets. The highest official in their prison system called conditions in their internment camps a disgrace, and they considered refitting a retired channel ferry for a camp.

Far Away on an Island

– – – – – – – –

Asylum seekers were also forcibly interned in Australia — to the detriment of its international reputation. They were sent to a remote island, thereby obviating the Geneva convention on refugees. After a change in government, the camps were mostly eliminated. The Australian minister for immigration (other countries, including Germany, have such an individual) said: “Desperate people are not scared away by harsh internment. They are often fleeing much worse conditions.”

For Amnesty International Austria general secretary Heinz Patzelt, forced internment of asylum seekers who are suspected of nothing is “clearly unlawful.” “There is no grey area between the personal right to move around freely and imprisonment. And there have to be grounds for imprisonment.” After the press conference, the SPÖ needed a two-hour reaction time before Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek “got sick to the stomach” over the Fekter plan. While everyone is trying to come to grips with the problem of asylum and the security concerns of the public, no word (again) from the SPÖ.

And the four selected comments:

#247 Wow, the “thinkers” are at it again! Just because a couple of asylum seekers disappear among the illegals (and by doing that blow any chance of asylum or financial support) we lock them as up as a precaution, no matter whether it is compatible with the law or human rights. So some people, in their critical lack of education, are nostalgic for the law of the jungle, for the Middle Ages or the “Thousand-Year Reich.”

#105 Speaking of imprisonment in the case of certain, time-limited restrictions on movement is, to say the least, an exaggeration. (Almost) all of us are subject to certain restrictions. And Joe Six-pack can’t pack up and go walkabout during his workday, just because he feels like it. It may be true that this idea goes beyond that, but let us not forget that this is to some extent a high risk group.

#43 Greetings, Bleeding Hearts! If we only had to deal with the truly persecuted, no problem. Too bad at least 90% of the so-called persecuted are economic refugees or bandits. We don’t want them among us, clear?

#13 There is a difference between being able to move around in the open and being locked up. Past history shows that what has been done until now has not worked. Besides, I think that a refugee can manage to spend 30 days in an asylum camp, before he is let loose on the Austrians.

* JLH: Eberau was a municipality in the area connecting Austria and Hungary, where from sometime in the Middle Ages the lords of the city had the right of life and death over their subjects, and held executions of those considered guilty of some crime.