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30 Sep 2016 by Ludwig Boltzmann

Long Day of Flight, 30 September 2016

The ‚Long day of flight’ takes place this year already for the fifth time – many events relating to the topic of flight and asylum will be offered in all nine provinces. Since the last ‘Long Day of Flight’ in 2015 many things happened. One year ago a many persons seeking international protection arrived in Austria. Even though most of them only transited Austria, in 2015 approx. 89,000 persons filed an application for international protection in Austria – which amounts to a triplication of applications compared to 2014. While the prevailing mood vis-à-vis the arriving protection seekers was in the beginning positive, today – one year later – this has changed. Very often the phrase: ‘Enough is enough!’ is heard.

As a response, measures were taken during the last year in order to – so the government bill – make Austria as a country of asylum less attractive for protection seekers: The family reunification of beneficiaries of international protection was severely restricted and ‘temporary asylum’ introduced, which is detrimental to the integration in Austria (see also Statement of BIM on the draft law from November 2015). Apart from that, the possibility to restrict access to the asylum procedure and the right to an effective remedy in case of an ‘emergency’ was introduced in the Asylum Act. From a human rights perspective these developments are extremely worrisome, in particular with regard to the principle of non-refoulement, the right to asylum as well as the right to an effective remedy, which are also anchored in EU primary law (see also comment of the BIM). Apart from that, it is not reasonable why Austria does not at least try to – as envisaged in EU primary law – achieve burden sharing within the EU, instead of immediately using such approaches, which are problematic from a human rights perspective.

As a response to the – in a some Member States – high number of applications, the European Union reinforces already existing elements in EU asylum and migration policy which result in the ‘outsourcing’ of protection obligations in direction of regions of origin (see also BIM position paper no. 6 which is available in the download section). An example is the agreement with Turkey, which applies the GRC only to European refugees. Such measures and policies are to be criticised for two reasons:

1) They undermine the fundaments of the international refugee protection regime, such as the principle of international solidarity and sharing of responsibility (preamble of the Geneva Refugee Convention (GRC), Conclusions of the UNHCR Executive Committee). The reception of refugees is to be regarded as a global challenge which cannot be solved at national – and neither on a European – level. This becomes clear when it is looked at following figures: In 2015 there were more than 21 million refugees (apart from approx. 40 million internally displaced persons); more than 90 % of them live in so-called “developing countries”. The aforementioned principle was also at the core of the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in New York, which took place on 19 September 2016, and its New York Declaration.

2) They do not support long-term and sustainable solutions. How the latter could look like has been examined by the BIM-Study: A new asylum policy for Europe?! Opting for a rights-based approach.

For further information on the work of the institute on the topic of asylum on the website of the team ‘Non-discrimination, Diversity and Asylum’ please refer to http://bim.lbg.ac.at/asylum/?lang=en