Austria restricts asylum seekers' freedom of movement
M & C
Sep 7, 2010, 17:47 GMT
Vienna – Austria further tightened its asylum rules on Tuesday, with the government deciding that asylum seekers will no longer be allowed to leave refugee camps in the first days after their arrival.
The governing coalition of Social Democrats and the central-right Peoples' Party agreed on the bill amid campaigns for regional elections that have been dominated by immigration issues.
Once the new rules become law, asylum seekers will have to stay in camps for up to seven days until authorities decide whether their asylum claims will be processed further, cabinet members said.
Asylum seekers will also have to carry a special red identification card. Police will be instructed to bring back any migrants to the camps in case they catch someone who violates the restriction.
Some 860 applicants have disappeared from the authorities' radar in the first seven months of this year, according to one aid group.
'If you want asylum, you have to be within reach,' Interior Minister Maria Fekter said about the bill, which has been criticized by refugee aid groups.
The head of the Catholic charity Caritas, Franz Kueberl, said: 'Once again, we see an election campaign being fought at the expense of asylum seekers.'
He was referring to upcoming regional polls in the Styria province and the capital Vienna, where the Social Democrats are trying to defend dominant positions against the People's Party and the far- right Freedom Party.
Some 15,800 people applied for refugee status last year, according to Interior Ministry statistics.