Information about Austria

General information

Austria is situated in central Europe. It´s size is 83.878,99 sq. km and compared to other European countries it is rather small. 575 km range from West to East, 294 km from North to South. Being a land locked country Austria shares borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It´s main geographical characteristic is the mountain range Alps running from West to East more or less through the country. Two thirds of the country is dominated by the Alps including the total of western Austria. The highest peak of Austria is the “Großglockner” with 3.798 m above sea level. Austria is often considered as the “republic of the Alps”. Quite a few tunnels were built to overcome distance through mountainous regions.

Nevertheless the landscape of Austria is diverse – from alpine mountainous regions especially in the West to flat plains in the East. Many lakes are scattered throughout the country.  The most important river is the Danube, which is the second longest river within Europe, originates in Germanys Black Forest and leads into the Black Sea. Austria is covered to a large extent by forest.

There are nine provinces, named Burgenland, Carinthia (Kärnten), Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), Salzburg, Styria (Steiermark), Tyrol (Tirol), Vorarlberg, Vienna (Wien). The capital is Vienna (in the province Vienna).

Climate in Austria

Austria is situated in the moderate climate zone. The year is formed by the four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter. Winter is cold with temperatures not below 10 degrees Celsius. Depending on the area, temperatures may drop to 15-20 degrees below zero. Snowfall is common during winter. Around March temperatures start to climb to approx. 13 degrees Celsius, 20 degrees are common in May. During the summer months July and August temperatures can rise up to 30 degrees. Autumn begins mild in September, though temperatures drop by November.

As Austria is located in central Europe it is influenced by the oceanic climate from the West (Atlantic) on one hand, on the other hand by the continental climate. The Atlantic climate is often responsible for high precipitation (a lot of rain respectively snow in winter) and a moderate course of temperature (cool summer, mild winter). The continental climate brings in big difference in temperature (hot summer, cold winter). The South of Austria is influenced by the Mediterranean.

Heavy rains are possible throughout the year. The mountain range of the Northern Alps often serves as a climate barrier, keeping precipitation higher on the Northern part than on the Southern part of the mountain range. Generally spoken, the rate of precipitation decreases from West to East.

People in Austria

Austria has a population of approx. 8,8 Million people (2017). 105 inhabitants live on one square kilometre. The highest density of population is in the capital of Vienna with 4.300 inhabitants per square kilometre, the lowest density in Tyrol (in the Western part) with 57 inhabitants per square kilometre.

There are nearly equal numbers of men and women. Life expectancy is approximately at the age of 83,7 years for women and 78,9 years for men. Women give birth to approximately 1,46 children. Many children are born out of marriage. Nearly half of them (42%) in 2014.

Around 1,4 Million (2016) people living in Austria are foreign citizens (15,3% of the entire population) which means that every sixth person is an immigrant. One third of this number originates from another EU country and another third from succession states of Yugoslavia (excluding Slovenia, since it is part of the EU since 2004). On the average 1,9 Million (2016) inhabitants in Austria have a migration background (21,6% of the entire population). Most migrants (approx. 187.000) living in Austria come from Germany. The second largest group of foreigners are Serbs (approx. 120.000), followed by Turks (approx. 117.000), Romanians (approx. 102.000), Bosnians (95.000), Hungarians (approx. 77.000), Croats (approx. 77.000), Polish (approx. 62.000), Syrians (approx. 48.000) and Afghans (approx. 46.000) make up the tenth largest group of foreigners (2018).

There are six recognized ethnic groups in Austria: Croats, Slovenian, Hungarians, Czech, Slovaks and Roma.

In 2017 24.735 asylum seekers were registered in Austria; most of them came from these countries: Syria (29,8%), Afghanistan (14,9%), Pakistan (6,2%). In 2016 42.285 asylum seekers were registered; main countries of origin were: Afghanistan (27,9%), followed  by Syria (20,7%) and Iraq (6,8%).
Most refugees who come to Austria via the resettlement programme live in Traiskirchen/Lower Austria, Vienna, Salzburg and Linz/Upper Austria.

Regarding the average of age of the Austrian population foreign nationals (34,6 years) were significantly younger than nationals (43,9 years) in 2017. Within the population with non-Austrian citizenship, however, the age structure was extremely heterogeneous. People from the EU tended to be older, immigrants from third countries much younger.

What kind of political system does Austria have?

Austria is a democratic federal state. Austria is a parliamentary democracy in which the division of powers is essential: The legislative, executive and judicative powers are separated. For more information see chapter Political system and society.

Which is the official language in Austria and which other languages are spoken?

German is the official language in Austria. Approximately 100 Million people speak German as their mother tongue, at least 80 Million speak German as their second language.  Here are examples of other Germanic languages (out of the approximately 15) and a rough estimate how many people speak as mother tongue: English (330 million mother tongue speakers, 500 million as proper second language), Dutch (25 million), Swedish (10 million), Afrikaans (6,7 million, 16 Mio. as second language).

There are some regionally recognized community languages in Austria: Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian. Recognized languages of minority groups are for example the Austrian sign language, Roma, Czech. In some areas sharing borders with neighbouring countries names of places ought to be put up in both languages that are spoken there.

Autochthonal ethnic groups such as Croats in the province “Burgenland”, Slovenians in Carinthia, Slovenians in the province Styria and Hungarian are recognised to receive schooling in their mother tongue.

Dialects are spoken across the country. Intensity varies depending on the region. Different dialects may have totally different words for different meanings.

The German alphabet derives from the Latin. It consists of 26 basic letters and has three umlauts which are mutated vowels: Ä, Ö, Ü and a specific form of S which is the so called “Eszett” or “scharfes S” (ß).

German is an official recognized language in the following countries (in certain parts of the following countries): Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, Brasil, Poland, Slovenia; apart from these German is spoken/understood in Czech, Hungary, Russia, Vatican; also out of Europe the language can be spoken such as: Namibia, South Africa, Australia, Paraguay; approximately 16 % of the population of the European Union speak German.

Where can I find language courses especially for refugees and migrants?

https://sprachportal.integrationsfonds.at/

http://www.deutschakademie.de/online-deutschkurs/

https://www.deutsch-lernen.com/d_index.php

http://deutschtraining.org/

https://www.jicki.de/deutsch-arabisch/basis/

http://www.arabisch.tv/deutsch-lernen-fuer-araber/

http://www.german-deutsch.com/kostenlose-unterrichtsmaterialien-fur-ehrenamtliche-trainerinnen-in-deutsch-als-fremdsprache/

https://supportrefugees.oeh.ac.at/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Skript_Farsi_NEU.pdf

https://supportrefugees.oeh.ac.at/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Skript_Arabisch_NEU-1.pdf

https://deutsch.fit/Deutschkurs/

http://www.goethe-verlag.com/book2/AR

http://www.goethe-verlag.com/book2/FA/

Sources:

https://www.oesterreich.com/de

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanische_Sprachen

https://www.migration.gv.at/de/leben-und-arbeiten-in-oesterreich/oesterreich-stellt-sich-vor/geografie-und-bevoelkerung/

https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/293019/umfrage/auslaender-in-oesterreich-nach-staatsangehoerigkeit/

http://www.demokratiezentrum.org/bildung/lernmodule/das-politische-system.html

MigrEmpower, Study on Policies and Good Practices Addressed to Migrants and Refugees’ Social and Labour Integration. National Report – Austria

Political system and society

What political system does Austria have?

Austria is a parliamentary republic based on the principles of democracy and the separation of powers. Since 1995 it is part of the European Union. For more information about EU, see: (https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/eu-in-brief_en).

The highest representative of the state is the Federal President, whose term of office lasts six years. Since 2017, this is Alexander Van der Bellen.

The political parties meet in the Austrian parliament. You are responsible for the legislation. There are 6 different parties represented in Parliament, they are elected by the people every 5 years. The two chambers of parliament are the National Council and the Bundesrat.

The Federal Government is formed from the majorities in parliament and is responsible for the implementation of the laws in Austria. It consists of the Federal Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor and several ministers. The Federal Chancellor will preside over the Federal Government.

Elections

From 16 years, every Austrian citizen can vote. Among others, the Federal President and the political parties represented in Parliament are elected. On information how to get citizenship, see chapter International protection: (hyperlink to international protection)

Media

The media belong to no political party in Austria, they are independent. Therefore, critical reporting exists. Freedom of the media is enshrined in the constitution in Austria.

The rule of law

Austria is a constitutional state. The courts in Austria have the task of ensuring that the rights and obligations enshrined in the laws are not violated by anyone. They must not make a difference between people based on their origin, sex, religion or profession. This means that courts are independent.

The Constitution

The basis of Austrian democracy is the constitution. There, the main principles and rules are set, for example, the separation of religion and politics. Another important part of the Constitution is human rights, including: the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of torture, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion.

Federalism

As a federal state, Austria consists of nine federal states.

The federal capital of Vienna is also one of the nine federal states. Each of the nine federal states is administered by a state government headed by the governor. Each federal state has its own capital.

  • Burgenland: Eisenstadt
  • Carinthia/Kärnten: Klagenfurt
  • Lower Austria/Niederösterreich: Sankt Pölten
  • Upper Austria/Oberösterreich: Linz
  • Salzburg: Salzburg
  • Styria/Steiermark: Graz
  • The Tyrol/Tirol: Innsbruck
  • Vorarlberg: Bregenz
  • Vienna/Wien: Wien

Austria borders 8 neighboring countries: Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein.

Links:

More information about the political system in Austria:

Religion

How is religion dealt with in Austria? Which significance does religion have in Austria?

Austria, having signed the human rights declaration puts freedom of religion first. This is fixed by law meaning that people are able to follow a religious group (if any at all) as they like. It is also permitted not to be a member of a religious group. Religion is private. People are treated equally, irrespective of their religious belief.

Most Austrians are Christians. They make up to 70% of the population. There are different sub-groups making up Christians: approx. 60% Catholics, 6% Orthodox, 4% Protestants [1]. Part of the population does not belong to any religion – either since birth or because they have resigned from a religion.

Religious Groups% of population
Christians

70

       Catholics

60

       Orthodox

6

       Protestants

4

Moslems

8

       Sunnits

7

       Alevites, Schiites

1

Other (Buddhists, Jews, without demonination etc.)

22

8%[2] of Austrians are Muslims making this religion the third biggest group of denomination in Austria (first is Christianity, second is the group of people without any religion).  Approximately 85% of Muslims are Sunnits, 15% Alevites and Schiites [3] respectively approx. 7% of the entire population are Sunnits and 1% Alevites and Schiites. There are approximately 400[4] Islamic prayer rooms and 4 mosques in Austria. The 4 mosques are in Vienna (http://www.izwien.at/), Telfs/Tyrol (https://atib.at/startseite/), Bad Vöslau/Lower Austria (https://www.facebook.com/IFWBadVoslau/) , Graz/Styria (https://islamgraz.org/)

Other religious groups are for example the Alevites, Buddhists, Jews.

Religious and political affairs are separated in Austria. The Austrian law is superior to any religious regulations.

For example: Prayer calls by the Muezzin is not allowed bevor 6 p.m. due to noise regulations during the night.  As holidays in Austria follow the Christian religion or historic incidences there are no Muslim holidays.   Wearing the headscarf because of religious reasons is allowed, but regarding the law it is important that women wear it voluntarily.

Unfortunately practices of discrimination are widespread in Austria. With 309 incidences that were counted 2017, the rate of racism against Muslims has increased to approx. 21% since 2016 [5].  Hate speech and verbal assaults belong to the main forms of racism. Some Muslims have reported that it is easier to find a job if they do not wear a scarf.

Though there are many people who like to share and be connected with migrants and there are associations working towards their inclusion and a peaceful coexistence. If you should have problems with discrimination you can get support; see chapter 5.

[1] https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/304874/umfrage/mitglieder-in-religionsgemeinschaften-in-oesterreich/

[2] Data 2016: Statista 2018, https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/312152/umfrage/anzahl-der-muslime-in-oesterreich/Data 2016: Statista 2018

[3] https://brainworker.at/islam-muslime-in-oesterreich/

[4] https://derstandard.at/2000061598164/Islamische-Glaubensgemeinschaft-erhebt-Zahl-der-Moscheen-in-Oesterreich

[5] https://www.dokustelle.at/

Rights and responsibilities

What rights are there for ALL residents in Austria?

All residents on the Austrian territory are being guaranteed the fundamental rights of the person (UN Declaration of Human rights).

What are fundamental rights?

A constitutionally guaranteed right (fundamental right) is a public right granted to the individual on the basis of a provision of a constitutional law. According to the most recent jurisprudence (CC 14/03/2012, U 466/11 et al.), within a certain framework rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union may also be referred to “as constitutionally guaranteed rights serving as a standard of review in proceedings before the Constitutional Court”.  Constitutionally guaranteed rights can be enforced before the Constitutional Court through complaints filed pursuant to Article 144 or 144a of the Constitution (B-VG) or through applications for a judicial review of laws or regulations (Art. 139 and 140 B-VG).

Source: Constitutional Court Austria (vghf Verfassungsgerichtshof Österreich): Fundamental Rights

What fundamental rights are there in Austria?

The following list is not naming all existing rights but gives an overview about the core elements of fundamental rights:

  • Existential rights: right to live, prohibition of torture, prohibition of inhuman and humiliating punishment or treatment, prohibition of slavery and serfdom
  • Personal rights of freedom and freedom of movement: personal freedom, freedom of movement and residence, protection of expulsion or extradition
  • Right of private and family live: data protection, respect of the secrecy of correspondence and telecommunications, right of respect of home
  • Intellectual rights: freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, rights of legally recognized churches and religious communities, right to choose between civilian and military service
  • Political rights: right to vote for citizens of full age, freedom of opinion, freedom of information, freedom of association, right to found political parties and be active in political parties, freedom of assembly, right to file a petition, right to file a referendum and participate in a referendum, right to have access to public offices
  • Cultural rights: right to education, right of the parents to decide about the education and teaching of their children, right to found education and teaching institutions, right for parents to teach their children, right of publicity, freedom of art, freedom of science
  • Economic rights: right of inviolability of property, freedom of property, right to choose an apprenticeship and to exercise a profession of choice, right to carry on a business, prohibition of forced or compulsory labour
  • Rights of ethnic minorities: rights of ethnic minorities and tribes
  • Procedural rights: right of a fair proceeding, right of a proceeding in front of the legally competent judge, right to have the option of an effective appeal, no punishment without law, no sentence to crime without law, right to check identification of e.g. police officers

translated text, original source: center for democracy Vienna: Grundrechte in Österreich

What rights do I have as an asylum seeker?

As an asylum seeker you are entitled to proceedings according to the respective legal standards, in which the reasons for which you need protection in Austria are noted and examined, and if appropriate the respective protection status is granted. Like everyone else, as an asylum seeker you have the right to respect for the principal of non-refoulement (This international principle prohibits the deportation of persons to countries in which inhuman treatment or torture threatens, and forbids refugees to be sent back to countries where they risk persecution.) As an asylum seeker you have the right to basic care and to legal consultation.

Source: Caritas FAQs Refugees and Asylum

What obligations do I have as an asylum seeker?

As an asylum seeker you must cooperate in the asylum proceedings, in other words to appear at all the meetings set down by the Austrian authorities, to tell the truth about all the reasons why you cannot return to your country of origin (or another country), and if possible to prove your reasons. If you want to apply for asylum in Austria, you should do this as quickly as possible after entering Austria, otherwise there could be negative consequences. Asylum seekers must immediately inform the BFA (General Agency for Immigration and Asylum) or the Federal Administrative Court about a change in their residence and always be available.

Source: Caritas FAQs Refugees and Asylum

More information about rights and responsibilities of asylum seekers:  The refugee rights toolkit

How can I acquire the Austrian citizenship?

The legal foundations of Austrian citizenship are based on the principle of descent. Austrian citizenship can be acquired by descent from Austrian parents, marriage with an Austrian partner and on application, whereby naturalization is associated with high demands and is understood as a temporary end to a successful integration process. Dual citizenships should be avoided; the applicant is requested to give up his original nationality.

Almost all amendments to the citizenship law, which have dealt with the citizenship on request, brought a substantive tightening – in order to indirectly reduce the family reunification.

Anyone seeking Austrian citizenship today must

  • sign an integration agreement
  • prove their language skills
  • pass a citizenship test
  • live in Austria for at least ten consecutive years
  • prove that they have a secure income
  • prove they do not commit delinquency.

Particularly well-integrated people can be naturalized after only six years if they can demonstrate good personal integration (income, German language skills, voluntary work).

The number of naturalizations per year is currently only around 8,000. Based on the size of the foreign resident population with at least ten years residence in Austria, this corresponds to a naturalization rate of exactly 1.0 percent.

More information about acquiring the Austrian citizenship (migration.gv.at)

What duties do I have to fulfill living in Austria?

In order to get a residence permit in Austria you need to sign the integration agreement. The integration agreement serves to integrate third-country nationals who are legally settled in Austria and aims at the acquisition of advanced German language skills and knowledge of the democratic system and the fundamental principles derivable from it.

More information about the integration agreement (migration.gv.at)

As an equal member of the Austrian society, you will have certain duties to fulfill like: learning the German language, respecting the laws proscribed by the Austrian Constitution and sharing the norms and fundamental values of the Republic (e.g. gender equality, the rights of the others, the duties of solidarity etc).

It is also appreciated if you actively participate and work together with the local population in building a better and cohesive society. This can be realized through socially useful work such as volunteering or community activities. As you will be hosted in Austria it is important to show your will to integrate in the new society and to contribute to its development. This will be at the same time a precious opportunity for cultural and social exchange and personal growth of both you and the locals.

Austrian State Duties

The Austrian State has the corresponding duties to provide you with equality and equal dignity, the freedom of religion, access to education and training, adequate housing and a sanitary system.

 

Further information & links

Human Rights Compass. Rights and duties of citizens (German)

Fundamental Rights in Austria (German) (polipedia.at)

Protection against discrimination

What is discrimination?

Discrimination means that certain people or groups are treated worse than others. Protection against discrimination is a human right.

Individuals or organisations are discriminating you if they treat you differently from everyone else because of something about you that they do not respect.

Discrimination can be a horrible and hurtful experience and, in many instances, it is against the law as a form of violence.

Some examples of discrimination:

  • someone saying hurtful, offensive things or attacking you repeatedly,
  • being made fun of (making jokes about you),
  • being excluded or left out,
  • having a group of people gang up on you,
  • being made to do hurtful or inappropriate things,
  • being threatened,
  • finding yourself having to defend who you are and what you believe against stereotypes and untrue claims.

People can be discriminated in these areas of public life:

  • workplace, access to labour market, employment
  • education, science and sports
  • accommodation
  • social welfare, pension system, social and health insurance
  • access to health care
  • government services – access to justice and administration
  • accessing goods, services and facilities
  • public information and media
  • membership in trade unions, NGOs, political parties and other organizations
  • participation in culture and arts.

Which areas are covered by equal treatment legislation?

According to the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection following areas are covered by the equal treatment legislation:

  • Equal treatment of women and men at work
  • Equal treatment at work irrespective of ethnicity, religion or beliefs, age or sexual orientation
  • Equal treatment irrespective of ethnicity outside work
  • Equal treatment of women and men in the access to and supply of goods and services
  • Principles concerning the regulation of equal treatment at work in agriculture and forestry
  • Equal treatment of persons with disabilities at work and in everyday life

What are the most important laws for protection against discrimination in Austria?

The most important laws for protection against discrimination in Austria are

  • the Equal Treatment Act
  • the Federal Equal Treatment Act
  • the Act governing the Hiring of People with Disabilities
  • the Federal Act on Equal Treatment of People with Disabilities

Where can I get advise and support if I am affected and how can I enforce claims?

The Ministry of social affairs n

  • The Ombud for Equal Treatment offers you free and confidential advice and support. It is also entitled to represent you in the Equal Treatment Commission.
  • You can turn to the Equal Treatment Commission and also before, concurrently with or after proceedings in the Equal Treatment Commission take court action.
  • Trade unions and chambers of labour as well as non-governmental organisations offer help and advice.
  • District courts also offer advice on court days.
  • Multiple discrimination that also involves the discrimination ground of disability is covered by the Federal Equal Treatment Act for People with Disabilities and the Act Governing the Recruitment of People with Disabilities.
  • Sozialministerumsservice is the central contact point for all questions related to discrimination on grounds of disability

What is the Ombud for Equal Treatment?

The Ombud for Equal Treatment is a federal institution for the implementation of the equal treatment principle. He or she can give legal advice to victims, investigate the facts of a case and give recommendations to prevent or stop discrimination. It can not carry out legal proceedings or represent victims in legal proceedings.

The main responsibilities of Ombudsperson according to the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection are:

  • It advises and assists persons or relatives of persons who feel discriminated against and accompaniesthem in proceedings before the Equal Treatment Commission.
  • Advice is also provided for persons wishing to avoid discrimination (e.g. employers, members of works councils). Counselling is free of charge and confidential.

The Ombud for equal treatment is divided into:

  • The Ombud (male or female) for equal treatment of women and men at work
  • The Ombud (male or female) for equal treatment at work irrespective of ethnicity, religion or beliefs, age or sexual orientation at work
  • The Ombud (male or female) for equal treatment irrespective of gender or ethnicity in other areas
  • Ombud for people with disabilities

How can I file a complaint or press charges in case of discrimination?

If you think you have been discriminated dependant on the grounds of discrimination and the region in Austria you are living there are different contact persons. The booklet Equal opportunities published bei Sozialministerium provides a link of different contact persons page 57 to 64.

If you want to press charges against someone in case of discrimination you need to address the court and will need legal representation. You can engage any lawyer you want, or if you have no means, you can contact specialized civil society organizations who are accredited to provide free legal aid (link to legal aid). In case of discrimination on the grounds of disability a mandatory conciliation procedure takes place at the Sozialministerumsservice before you can press charges against someone.

Sources and links for more information:

Living in the community & neighbourhood

How are communities?

Communities in Austria are arranged in city districts or local/village communities and carry out administrative matters at the lowest level. They are engaged in meeting public needs of the community. Through local communities, the inhabitants of a certain area can influence decisions in their community. Communities are arranged in such a way that for people in each community main public services are available within a certain distance, these services are eg kindergarten, schools, medical services, grocery store, ATM, public transport and cultural and leisure activities.

In Austria, many people in the communities are also connected through various associations, clubs and interest groups. These associations, clubs and interest groups contribute to social community life with organizing events, street parties, festivals ect on local level.

Living with others in the community and neighbourhood

Living in big cities or towns in Austria can be quite different from living in villages or small towns. If you live in a big city, people are not necessarily very close to each other, even if you live in close neighbourhood. In smaller towns and villages people are often more connected. In all the cases however, even if you live in a big apartment building, it is considered as polite to greet the neighbours you meet in common areas – stairs, hallways, elevators.

In Austrian society, it is expected to respect other people´s rights and their privacy. You can invite the neighbours you meet often and you want to get to know better for a cup of coffee or tea. However, you must not consider it as offensive if they refuse. Probably like in any other big city in the world, it is normal for people to live close to each other but not to socialize too closely. This does not mean that neighbours would not ask each other for small favours, eg help with moving furniture or borrowing some sugar, milk, flower, etc.

In Austria a good neighbour is expected to help in emergency but also to respect a person´s privacy. Therefore you should avoid activities of every day live that might create very loud noise, dust/dirt and/or might cause harm to your neighbours. Generally you should avoid noise between 10h in the evening and 7h in the morning, in both, your apartments but also out in the streets. And also during day time, loud sounds on TV, Radio or computer, slamming doors or playing loud music are sometimes regarded as disturbing and you might be asked to stop it. You should pay attention to your voice (intonation, height), as yelling even if not in anger can make people feel offended or uncomfortable.

In Austria, the public law on smoking has often been changed in the last years. So currently smoking is not allowed in restaurants, bars or cafes if they don´t have specific designated areas for smokers,  (small bars/restaurants are allowed to be either smoking or non-smoking area),  public buildings, hospitals, schools or public transport facilities are generally no-smoking areas.

Common areas and goods

Especially if you live in apartment buildings you are expected to follow the house rules /rules of living in the apartment and to show your respectfulness of others and  care of common areas and appliances as they were your own. In mulit-appartment buildings stairs, hallways, elevators, basemenst, cortyards, electric lights, intercoms and similar are some examples of common appliances and places.

Some multi-appartment buildings in Austria have a facility manager who is responsible for taking care and keeping  places and the facility as a whole in a good condition. Inhabitants of mulit-appartment buildings are billed according to their share  for the maintenance and costs of common areas (cleaning, electricity on the hallways etc.).

Waste and recycling

Recycling is obligatory in Austria, in mult-appartment buildings you can find litter bins for certain types of waste to be recycled

  • paper and cardboard,
  • glass bottles,
  • plastic bottles,
  • packaging waste, eg tetra packs,
  • metal cans,
  • textile,
  • the rest of household waste.

You should not put bulky waste, like electric and electronic appliances, furniture and other household assets into ordinary bins or dispose in the streets or open environment. This can lead to fines. Also out in the streets, you should put waste into one of the many public  litterbins that are there available. In each of the communities in Austria there exist special places and facilities where all kind of waste can be disposed free of charge.

If you live in a mult-appartment building, often you  can find the bins in a separate room of the basement or in the courtyard. As a house owner you will have your own litter bins which will be emptied by community services and for which you have to pay a charge.   Never throw away waste in the street or into the open environment.

Gardens and courtyards

If you live in a house and have a garden, you should take care for the plants, trees and lawn. You should eg  cut grass regularly, take care that trees don´t disturb your neighbours garden.

If you live in a multi apartment building, often there are courtyards which might be used as playground for children but also as parking space for bicycles or  cars. In some apartment buildings the courtyard is also a meeting point for neighbours.  Everyone using the courtyard has to be careful about the jointly used facilities, keep it clean and use it in a way respectful for others (eg no loud parties after 10pm).

Pets

Many Austrians have a cat or a dog as pet in their apartment or in their house, but also birds or fish are common. Usually pets are allowed in appartments and houses but often there are special house rules forseen for having a pet. It is forbidden by the law to intentionally hit, hurt or in other way mistreat animals. If you have a pet you have the responsibility to take care of other people and animal safety and public order. This means for example, that you have to keep the dog on a lead outdoors and to have a bag for waste  to  clean after your pet when you are out in the streets.

Family & children

How to be a parent in a new country?

Coming to a new country, especially for those who are forced to move, can be difficult for both parents and children. As a parent, you might be faced with cultural norms, customs and legal obligations regarding parenting that are different from what you are used to and the ways you were brought up as children.

Sometimes, children find it easier to integrate into the new community than their parents do. Children naturally learn the language quicker, especially if they go to school and spend much more time with German speaking friends than their parents, who do not always get a place in a German course immediately and who might find it difficult to get in contact with Austrians.

This can lead to changing roles in the family and putting too many responsibilities on the child. It is important for parents to stay supportive to the development of the child and realization of their potentials. This includes to allow the child to pursue his/her own interests.

What should I know about family, marriage & partnerships?

Traditionally, family in Austria constitutes of man, woman and their children. There are a lot of families with only one or two children. Many couples live together and have children before they get married, some also choose not to marry at all.

It is also very common that a man and a woman are in a relationship for a while, even years, before they decide to marry. Moreover, it is not very common that a man asks a woman to marry him right away.

Two women or two men can form a civil partnership, which means their relationship is legally recognized and in rights similar to a marriage between a man and a woman. They can also adopt children.

Marriage in Austria can be civil and/or confessional. A lot of people do both. Confessional (non-civil) marriages are not considered legally binding by the authorities. Anyone getting married must first register with a register office [Standesamt] up until six months prior to the desired wedding date

In Austria you can only be married to one person at a time. The legal age for both men and women is 18. Individuals of at least 16 years of age may also marry provided that the other spouse is at least 18 years old and they have a declaration of marriageability issued by a court, as well as writte approval by their legal guardians. Marriage between blood relatives in direct line (e.g. father and daughter) or between siblings is not possible.

Austrian law also forbids forced marriage. It is regarded as severe coercion (§ 106/1/3 StGB) and can be punished with imprisonment of up to 5 years. No one can force anyone else to marry. Everyone has the right to decide whom he or she wants to marry. You always have the right to say no to getting married.

A man and a woman have equal rights and responsibilities. According to the law, household, parenting and employment should be divided by mutual agreement among the spouses so that the respective contributions are balanced. Especially the respective occupational burden should be considered. If they have children, they should also take into account their well-being. Therefore, both spouses have to make their contribution in the household. An exception exists if only one of them is employed. In this case, it is possible for one to lead the household alone.

Every person above the age of 18 has to financially support their parents if they are unable to work and do not have enough money to sustain themselves.

What are my duties as a parent?

In Austria, children have special right and as parents we all need to respect them. The main document in the area of children’s rights is the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On 5 September 1992, the Children’s Rights Convention in Austria is formally entered into force.

Every person under 18 years of age is considered a child. Every child is equal and has equal rights. Children you adopt are equal to your biological children. Male children and female children are equal and should be treated equally.

The duty of supervision

The duty of supervision of the parents begins with the birth of a child and ends with the age of majority, i.e. the completion of the 18th year of life. If a child can take on more responsibility as they get older, parents can relax their supervision. Parental responsibility may be delegated to others (grandparents, other relatives, friends, babysitters or pedagogues at school and kindergarten), but parents must ensure that outside supervisors are able to supervise and oversee any special needs of their child or illnesses of your child.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child consists of many articles and provisions. There are four important principles:

  • All children have the same rights! It does not matter where they live, what religion they belong to, what color or gender they have, whether they are disabled, or whether their parents are poor or rich.
  • The well-being of children must always be paramount when making political decisions.
  • All children have a right to life, development and education.
  • All children have the right to express their opinion.

The four principles give rise to children’s rights, which can be summarized in ten basic rights.

  1. Every child has the right to equal treatment and protection against disadvantage.
  2. Every child has the right to a name and a nationality.
  3. Every child has the right to health and medical care.
  4. Every child has the right to education and training.
  5. Every child has the right to leisure, play and recreation.
  6. Every child has the right to inform, communicate and be heard.
  7. Every child has the right to protection against abuse and mistreatment.
  8. Every child has the right to help with disasters and emergencies and protection from cruelty, neglect, exploitation and persecution.
  9. Every child has the right to a family and a safe home.
  10. Every child has the right to special care and assistance in the event of disability.

If parents cannot meet the needs of their children, the welfare of a child or adolescent up to 18 years is at risk, there is support from the child and youth welfare. This is an authority and at the same time a service of the federal state. Parents get support to help them better understand their responsibilities as parents. For this they can get advice in a parent child unit.

Parents may also be required to seek counselling, or an employee of “Mobile Family Support” will come home. For children, there is support through development assistance, help with finding a place in a kindergarten or mediation of child and adolescent psychotherapy.

If the life or health of the child is seriously endangered, the social services may temporarily place it outside the family. The child is then cared for in a shared flat or crisis foster family until the risk or problem is resolved.

If children are severely or permanently mistreated and / or neglected, the court may decide to wholly or partially cancel parental custody.

What if I get divorce?

A man or a woman can ask for a divorce if they do not want, for whatever reasons, to stay married any longer. Divorce can happen if one or both persons want to end the marriage.

For spouses who want to get a consensual divorce and have underaged children together, it is obligatory to certify to the court that they have sought advice on the specific needs of their minor children from a suitable person or institution. One of the purposes of the counselling is for spouses to agree on where children will live after divorce, time they will spend with each of the parents, how important decision in the interest of the child will be made etc. A list of approved counseling institutions can be found here: https://www.trennungundscheidung.at/elternberatung-vor-scheidung/berater/

Usually after the divorce, a man and a woman do not live together anymore. However, even if they do not live together, both parents have to continue taking care of the children they have together. Each parent has the right and obligation to spend time and create emotional relationships with their children.

Child custody means that the legal guardians, usually the parents, have legal responsibility for the child.

If a child does not have parents or parents lose their parental rights, the state appoints another adult person as legal guardian. Parents or other persons who are legal guardians have the right and obligation to care after the child, make decision and act in the best interest of the child.

According to the law, parents in Austria have a maintenance obligation towards their children. Children have a maintenance claim against their parents. This diminishes (or ends) when children have their own income and can carry a part (or all) of their livelihood themselves.

The best option is that parents’ divorce consensual and agree on custody over children. A controversial divorce can take a long time and cost a lot of nerves and money. If parents cannot agree on custody over children and other details, the court will decide. A parent who does not live with the child any longer, will have to financial provide for the child. If parents cannot agree about financing the livelihood of the child where the child will live, it will be defined by the court during divorce.

Where to get help and support regarding family and parenting issues?

It is good to look for help of professionals if you have doubts and difficulties regarding family and parenting. Austria has a network of almost 400 family counseling centers. Help and support can be provided by social workers, psychologists, school counsellors and other professions. You can find a counselling service near you online: https://www.familienberatung.gv.at/migration/

If your child goes to kindergarten or school, the easiest way is to talk privately with counsellors or teachers there. They will connect you to other services if needed.

Link:

Convention on the Rights of the Child:

German

Arabic

Dari

Farsi

Protection against violence

What kind of violence is prohibited in Austria?

Violence is generally prohibited in Austria. The Austrian Constitution and other related laws prohibit and punish:

  • maliciously inflicted grievous bodily harm
  • deprivation of liberty
  • human trafficking
  • coercion and grievous coercion
  • dangerous threats
  • insistent persecution (stalking)
  • continued exercise of violence
  • rape
  • sexual coercion
  • grievous sexual abuse and sexual abuse against minors
  • pornographic representations of minors
  • moral endangerment of minors below the age of 16
  • initiation of sexual contact to minors
  • hate speech (a public speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability) in consideration to the right of freedom of expression is forbidden if it is eligible to incite hate.

Gender based and domestic violence

The Austrian Federal Act on Protection Against Domestic Violence entered into force on 1 May 1997 and got several amendments since.

Violence against women and domestic violence is a serious problem. Domestic violence can have many forms:

  • use of physical force or psychological pressure;
  • causing feelings of fear;
  • physical attack regardless of whether or not it results in physical injury,
  • verbal assaults, insults, cursing, name-calling and other forms of severe disturbance;
  • sexual harassment;
  • illegal isolation or restriction of the freedom of movement or communication with third persons;
  • damage or destruction of property or attempts to do so;

What kind of protection and support can I get as a victim?

Victims of domestic violence must be protected.  Protection can include:

  • eviction of the offender from home shared with the victim;
  • restraining order issued by court prohibiting the offender to approach or contact the victim;
  • temporary injunction;
  • prohibition against stalking and harassing the victim;
  • court ordered financial fines or jail sentences on offenders;

Victims of domestic and gender-based violence have the right on police protection, psychological support and other types of help and assistance. This includes accommodation in a safe house, special shelter for women and children – victims of domestic violence.

If you are victim of any of these acts you should contact any official person or women’s organisations, especially the Women’s Helpline 0800/222 555 (free of charge 24 hours a day around the clock) or the intervention centre against violence of your region (contacts p. 12, 13  “Legislation for the Protection from Violence in Austria”).

What are hate crimes?

Hate crime is a crime committed based on differences in race, skin colour, religious beliefs, national or ethnic origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hate speech is a public expression that expands, promotes or justifies hate, discrimination or hostility towards a particular group.  Both hate speech and crime are prohibited and punishable by Criminal Code law.

For any of these forms of violence you can contact the police or human rights organisations.

 

Sources and further information

Domestic Abuse Intervention Center Vienna, Assosciation of Austrian Autonomous Women’s Shelters: “Legislation for the Protection from Violence in Austria” (English)

https://www.interventionsstelle-wien.at/english-summary (English)

https://www.klagsverband.at/info/hate-speech (German)

https://www.gewaltinfo.at (German)

http://www.aoef.at/index.php/gewaltschutzzentren (German)

http://www.aoef.at/index.php/gesetze-zum-schutz-vor-gewalt (German)

Contracts and binding agreement

Which forms of contracts exist and what are their regulations in Austria?

A contract is a binding agreement on certain rights and duties of both contract partners.

Contracts can be made in a written form or orally.  Although oral contracts are respected it is advisable to agree on a written contract – also depending on the issue. Oral contracts are widespread on daily issues. Written contracts are common for instance for: mobile phone, rent of room/flat, electricity, heating, employment, service, loans (for loans see chapter 10 –insert link). Before signing a contract it is advisable to compare different providers, as often there is more than one company offering for example electricity.

The extent of the rights and duties depend on the age of the person agreeing on a contract.  As men and women have the same rights, both are allowed to agree on contracts in equal measures. The contractual capability of a person is the essential prerequisite. Between the age of 14 – 18 a person has limited legal capacity, above the age of 18 a person has full legal capacity[1].

Limited contractual capability (age 14-18) means that you have means of things that were given to you (for example pocket money, income). You are allowed to work as far as your wellbeing or attending school is not at risk. Full contractual capability (above age 18) means that you are entitled to conclude any business and contracts. You yourself are responsible for your behaviour and all its’ consequences.

Generally you need a residence permit (and in the most cases a bank account in Austria) in order to sign a contract.

What should I know about employment contracts in general?

Regarding employment most contracts underlie the collective agreement protection which is widespread in Austria: This means the contract ensures that all employees earn at least the minimum wage and ensures labour rights. It is negotiated by the Union once a year.

There are various other kinds of contracts for employment such as a free employment contract. Depending on the service a specific contract may be more appropriate. It is important to read the contract carefully and understand it before signing. See information on employment in chapter 5 of the Guidebook (link to chapter 5 of guidebook).

Is there a service for consumer rights protection?

There is a service providing help for consumers offering advice in many fields regarding consumerism (consumer rights, juridical advice, etc.; https://sbg.arbeiterkammer.at)

[1] https://www.wko.at/service/wirtschaftsrecht-gewerberecht/Geschaeftsfaehigkeit_bei_Kindern_und_Jugendlichen.html

Money and finances

What currency is used in Austria?

In Austria, the currency is Euro. The Euro (€) is the official currency of 19 out of 28 EU member countries.

Do I need and how can I open a bank account in Austria?

In Austria for any transfer or receipt of money, you will need to open a bank account. There are many different banks to choose from that offer similar types of services, but the price of services may vary greatly.  It is recommended that you first check different providers and choose your bank according to your needs.

To open a bank account in Austria you generally need to be at least 18 years old. For a bank account with full services you need to have your place of residence in Austria, a photo ID and you might be asked for a salary statement.

However, every person who is staying in the European Union legally has the right to open a basis bank account (Basiskonto) with limited services not allowing you to overdraw your account. As an asylum seeker or a person with subsidiary or humanitarian protection you are eligible for such a basis account. To open a basis bank account you will be asked for your residence permit card defining your residence status.

With a debit card you have access to a giro account used for receiving and carrying out payments and withdrawing cash. If you want to save money a savings book is an options not helding any risks.

There are different bankcards. Most common are debit cards for payments and withdrawing money at the bank or ATMs. When you open an account, the bank will issue this card to you.

There are also various credit cards, which allow you to buy things or pay for services on credit (paying in monthly instalments). You need to be very careful and informed about using credit cards, to avoid paying much more then you wish and can afford.

What is the common way to pay bills and expenses?

The most common way of payment is in cash or by bank card (debit card).

For goods and services, you use – like electricity, gas, telecommunication (land phone, mobile phone, TV), water and other utilities, you can also pay the bills through e-banking that you can order with opening a bank account.

For the bills you have to pay every month, you can use long-term payment order, which means it will be automatically payed from your bank account every month.

You must pay your bills regularly. The date of payment is indicated on each bill and a service provider can charge the late payment interest. If you do not pay your bills, for example for electricity, the service provider will disconnect it. You will have to pay back costs and any costs associated with disconnection and later re-connection, to have the electricity connected again.

What are the risks and consequences of debts?

With inattentive money handling and non-payment of your bills and other expenses, you can quickly fall into debt. It is advisable to learn how to manage your money so that you have control over spending. It would be good if you can devote some of your income to savings each month.

Be careful when borrowing money, particularly large amounts, as you may not be able to repay them and you can only accumulate additional debts. If you do not repay debts in a time, the creditor or the state can automatically take certain amount of revenue from your bank account.

Loans and credits

Requirements for taking up loans need to be discussed with the bank/ financial institution. Often standards are high as the bank wants to be sure you can pay back. It is important to understand all details of the conditions before signing.

 

Sources:

http://www.basiskonten.at/ein-konto-fuer-fluechtlinge-und-asylwerber-in-oesterreich/

https://www.gratis-konto.at/basiskonto

What is typically Austrian

Certainly there are various opinions on what is typical Austrian. Asking different people results in different answers.

Some say that the following is typical:

Landscape/nature:

  • Mountains are typical for Austria.
  • Hiking and skiing is typical for Austrians – generally spending time in nature.

Music:

  • “Jodeln” which is a special kind of singing is typical.
  • The composer Mozart, the famous Danube walz and classical music are typical for Austria.
  • The musical – Sound of Music – is definitely the movie that has spread most worldwide.
  • Popular folkore music in Austria music (“Schlagermusik”) is well-known for typical festivities (“Bierzelt-Fest”, “Volksfeste”). At these folk festivals (often at the country side) people come together in a huge tent to have a good time – drink bear, have food and music. Here they often wear the typical clothes (Tracht: “Dirndl” women and “Lederhose” for men).

Food:

  • The Coffee house culture: Austrians love to enjoy their cup of coffee in a nice café with a piece of cake. A famous cake is the Sachertorte.
  • The famous chocolate Mozartkugel must be mentioned. It’s a small ball of chocolate, wrapped in a picture of Mozart, the composer.
  • “Wiener Schnitzel” and “Schweinsbraten” – two well-known meat meals are typical for Austria.
  • Being aware of where food-products come from is often seen as typical Austria. Many prefere bying local products made in Austria – supporting the Autrian qualitiy.

Behavior:

  • Mourning, grouchy, unsatisfied people are often said to be typical for Austria.
  • Speaking about clichés in Austria it has to be mentioned that Austrians don’t like to be mistaken as Germans, just because of using the same language and being neighbours.
  • Austrians are polite – when getting to know them they may appear a bit distant at the beginning. Step by step this formal appearance will loosen up.
  • In respect of living Austrians have good contact to thier neighbourhood. Being polite, respecting peace at night is essential.
  • Being a member in associations is typical. There are a vast adundance of associations in Austria (sports, art, cooking, etc.)
  • Environmental awareness is typical of Austrians: they are known to keep the environment free of waste. Separating waste (paper, plastic, etc.) ist typical.
  • Neutrality is typical for Austria.

Sources:

https://www.mightytraveliers.com/typisch-osterreich-typisch-osterreichisch/
Österreichischer Integrationsfond: Mein Leben in Österreich: Lernunterlage zum Werte- und Orientuerungskurs, Chancen und Regeln
Internationale Organisation für Migration Wien: culTrain Begleitheft 2017

What is resettlement?

Resettlement is a tool/way to protect particularly vulnerable refugees. They are transferred from a first host country, which they have fled to from war, conflict or persecution, to a third country that offers them admission and refugee protection. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has developed specific criteria for the selection of refugees considered for resettlement.

Background/if space permits:

Most refugees look for protection in immediate neighbouring countries, (only a small percentage ever leaves to distant countries of the European Union to seek asylum there) but reliable assistance and long-term prospects are not always guaranteed there.

Legal requirements for resettlement

What are the criteria for admission to resettlement?

UNHCR has developed eight criteria for the selection of refugees to be considered for resettlement, the so called “UNHCR Resettlement Submission Categories”. In general, refugees must first be registered and recognized by UNHCR. According to UNHCR, individuals who meet at least one of the following criteria are considered for resettlement:

  1. Legal and physical protection needs
  2. Survivors of violence and torture
  3. Medical needs
  4. Women at risk
  5. Family reunification
  6. Children and adolescents
  7. Elderly refugees
  8. Lack of local integration prospect

Background/if space permits:

UNHCR assesses individual resettlement needs with these criteria and then suggests which people should be selected. The final decision about the admission of a person is, however, the responsibility of the receiving country. Many countries have additional national admission criteria that are not the same as those of UNHCR.

How does the resettlement procedure work?

How does the resettlement procedure work?

The selection and transfer of a refugee as part of a resettlement process is a complex process involving various international and national actors.

In order to benefit from a resettlement procedure, you must be recognized as a refugee by UNHCR.

Additionally, there has to exist a special degree of vulnerability [Link to legal requirements for resettlement].

This is the case, for example, when you are a child, if you have a disability, illness or if you are threatened by serious human rights violations in the first country of refuge.

UNHCR has developed eight resettlement criteria with which it assesses individual resettlement need and then suggests which people should be selected:

  1. Legal and physical protection needs
  2. Survivors of violence and torture
  3. Medical needs
  4. Women at risk
  5. Family reunification
  6. Children and adolescents
  7. Elderly refugees
  8. Lack of local integration prospect
  • If at least one of these criteria is met and there is no lasting solution for you in the country of origin or the first country of refuge, the UNHCR proposes you to a state for resettlement.
  • This resettlement application is based on your approval.
  • The final decision about your admission is, however, the responsibility of the receiving country.
  • Many countries have additional national admission criteria that do not coincide with those of UNHCR.
  • If a state agrees to admission, the necessary formalities are set for departure and you are prepared for departure.
  • Upon arrival, the host state grants you prospects of permanent residence (for three years at least in Austria) and permanent refugee protection.

While you are still in the first host country

What happens while I am still in the first host country?

UNHCR assesses individual resettlement need of refugees with its eight resettlement criteria [link to legal requirements above in point 1] and then suggests refugees to the Austrian government.

You as a refugee cannot apply for the program yourself.

The final decision about your admission is the responsibility of the authorities of the host country/Austria.

IOM, the International Organization for Migration, conducts cultural orientation trainings before departure and will organise your trip to Austria/the host country.

When you move to Austria 

What will happen when I arrive in Austria?

  • First placement

After your arrival in Austria you will come to the initial reception center in Traiskirchen, a place near Vienna, the capital of Austria. There, after a first interview, you will be granted refugee status. This entitles you to a stay of three years in Austria. Your data will be recorded and a picture of you and your family will be taken. In addition, medical examinations are carried out.

  • Documents

In your first week in Traiskirchen you will receive your card for people entitled to asylum. This will be your identity document.

Please pay close attention to the spelling of your name when your personal data are collected in the first interview at the initial reception center in Traiskirchen. The spelling will determine how your name will be written in the future in Austria: on your card for people entitled to asylum, on your convention passport, etc., it will be written exactly as it is recorded in this interview.

  • Long term perspective

After three years the Austrian authorities will check whether the reason on which you have been granted asylum continues to apply. If the security situation continues to be problematic, you will receive a permanent residence permit after three years. However, if the security situation in your country of origin has changed to the better, your refugee status will end, you will not receive any further residence permit and you will have to leave Austria.

  • Housing

You will spend your first weeks in Austria in a temporary shelter together with other refugees. After the first administrative steps you will be assigned your own apartment. In some cases this too will be a transitional living in the assigned federal state. You will be brought there and will get to know your counselor.

What social welfare services are available for me?

The amount of state support a refugee receives in Austria depends on the one hand on his or her asylum status and on the other hand on the federal state in which he or she lives and seeks assistance in.

  • Asylum seekers

From the time of  your asylum application until the finalization of the asylum procedure you are an asylum seeker. During the asylum procedure, the asylum seeker has a temporary right of residence and a right to primary care. Asylum seekers are assigned to a federal state and are bound to it during the asylum procedure. They do not have access to the labour market with a few exceptions, such as self-employment under certain conditions or access to specific branches with a high number of job openings.

  • Persons with subsidiary protection status basically enjoy full access to social benefits like means tested minimum income. In some federal states however, they cannot get any means tested minimum income (Burgenland, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria). In Vorarlberg they can only get it if they keep to the Integration Agreement.
  • Recognised refugees, convention refugees and those who are entitled to political asylum have completed an asylum procedure and have been recognised under the Geneva Refugee Convention. They have full access to the labour market and to social benefits equal to that of Austrian citizens like demand oriented minimum income, family allowance and so on.

What can I do if I don`t find a job immediately after getting access to the job market?

Especially in the early days, many have difficulties finding a job, since they need to learn German first. During this time, recognised refugees (if they are in need of help) receive means tested minimum income. 4 months after a positive asylum decision, asylum seekers no longer receive primary care [link] and must apply for means tested minimum income. This lasts up to 8 weeks, during this time they don’t receive any money. The means tested minimum income for asylum seekers in Vorarlberg is linked to an integration agreement.

Family reunification

Can I bring my family to Autria?

In terms of numbers, family migration is the largest form of immigration to Austria (only 2014 – 2016 the figures of Asylum applications in Austria have been higher than family reunification).

Family members in the context of the settlement and residence act are spouses (as well as registered partners) and unmarried minors including adoptive and step children. Spouses and registered partners must be 21 years of age or older when applying. This requirement applies to both spouses.

Actually, the system of Austrian law regarding family reunification is quite complicated. There are different rules for persons with granted protection, family members of Union citizens,[1] Austrians[2] and family members of Third Country Nationals [link to Glossary].

  • Asylum seekers

As an asylum seeker you cannot bring your family to Austria.

  • Persons with granted protection in the first three months

If you have asylum status in Austria (granted protection) you can bring your family to Austria. From the moment you received asylum status, the family should apply within 3 months. Your family needs to submit the application for family reunification at the Austrian embassy of the country your family is staying. It is easy to bring your family in the first three months of positive asylum. After three months you need to fulfill certain requirements such as income and adequate housing. The Austrian Red Cross informs about family reunification in different languages.

  • Persons with granted protection after the first three months and other third country nationals

The possibilities for family reunification differ according to which residence permit you have in Austria.

As a third country national your family members are granted a residence permit “Red White Red Card plus” if they meet the general prerequisites for obtaining residence permits. The “Red-White-Red Card plus” grants its holders free access to the labour market.[3]

As a rule, they need to file their application at an Austrian Embassy in their country of origin (in the country where they currently reside). Exceptionally, they are able to lodge the application in Austria, if – depending on their citizenship – they can enter Austria without the requirement of a visa.

The following general requirements must be met in order that a residence permit can be granted:

  • Sufficient means of subsistence:[4] You must have a fixed and regular income enabling you to meet your livelihood without resorting to social assistance. The income needs to be equal to or exceed the minimum pension rate. In 2017, this standard income rate amounted to EUR 909,42 for singles, EUR 1.363,52 for married couples (also for registered partners) and an additional EUR 140,32 for each child. Parts of the running expenses (especially rent) are added to this required amount.
  • Health insurance:[5] You must have health insurance coverage, providing benefits in Austria and covering all risks.
  • Adequate accommodation according to local standards:[6] You must provide evidence of a legal title to an accommodation considered adequate to your family size according to local standards.
  • Valid travel document.[7]
  • Free Space in the relevant quota (there is quota for family members in each province of Austria).
  • Your family members have to provide evidence of German language skills on A1 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages,[8] when first applying for a residence permit.[9] Furthermore, they are obliged to sign a so called “module 1” of the „Integration agreement“: Module 1 is intended to provide German language skills for in-depth basic language use (i.e. language skills at A2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). If your family members do not pass a written exam, it is not possible to renew the residence permit after two years of residence.
  • Authorities have to check whether or not your family members are considered as a threat to public policy, public security or public health.[10]

[1] Art 51 and 54 residence and settlement act.

[2] Art 47 residence and settlement act.

[3] Art 17 Act Governing the Employment of Foreign Nationals.

[4] Art 11 Para 2 N° 4 and Para 5 residence and settlement act.

[5] Art 11 Para 2 N° 3 residence and settlement act.

[6] Art 11 Para 2 N° 2 residence and settlement act.

[7] Art 20 Para 1 and Art 2 Para 1 N° 2 and 3 residence and settlement act.

[8] Council of Europe, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (2011).

[9] Art 21a residence and settlement act.

[10] Art 11 Para 4 residence and settlement act.

What is relocation

Relocation is a EU solidarity programme that involves relocating individuals in need of protection from a member state of the European Union to another EU member state. The programme aims to relieve pressure on individual member states, particularly those located at the external borders of the EU. The basis for relocation programmes are joint decisions of European Union member states.

Which current relocation programmes exist in the EU?

Because of the increase in the immigration of people seeking protection within the European Union, in 2015 two new relocation programmes were agreed upon. In May 2015 a relocation programme for 40,000 individuals from Italy and Greece was passed by the European Union. This was followed by a further relocation programme for 120,000 people seeking protection in September 2015. Under these resolutions, a total of 160,000 individuals from Greece, Italy, and Hungary are to be admitted by various EU countries within 2 years. Following the resolutions, Hungary refused to participate in the relocation programme so the relocations only come from Italy and Greece.

Legal requirements for relocation

What is the legal basis of the current relocation program?

The legal basis are the decisions of the EU Commission for the redistribution of refugees in “countries of arrival” (Italy and Greece) to other member states and the decisions of the responsible ministry of the (target) member state (see below). Persons that enter Austria via a relocation program are legally treated as asylum seekers.

How does it work?

How does the current relocation programme work?

The selection of protection-seeking individuals in the currently ongoing relocation programme is based on proposals by national offices in Italy and Greece, with the support of staff of the EUROPEAN ASYLUM SUPPORT OFFICE/ EASO (link: https://www.easo.europa.eu/). The Austrian ministry of the interior grants approval for admission in Austria in a next step. Relocation involves individuals who have already applied for asylum in Greece or Italy and among whom a high protection rate of at least 75% is expected. People seeking protection who have already applied for asylum in another European country are not considered for the relocation programme by the national offices.

As a person admitted to Austria via relocation you must complete the full asylum procedure after arrival in Austria. You get first of all registered in Traiskirchen at the national reception centre and then you get allocated to one of the nine federal states of Austria. After your registration, the process is the same as for all asylum seekers including an application for asylum and later an interview.

While you are still in the transit country/Before arriving in Austria

Who is responsible for me on site?

  • National asylum authorities
  • European Asylum Support Office
  • International Organisation for Migration

What are the steps if I get selected for relocation to Austria?

  • The National asylum authorities [link] in Greece and Italy can select you as a candidate for relocation with the support of the European Asylum Support Office. It then proposes you to the Austrian ministry of the interior. As soon as it grants approval for admission in Austria, IOM is involved. If you choose to accept the decision for relocation to Austria, IOM will have you on your list with the beneficiaries that have been selected for relocation.
  • IOM then starts implementing important pre-departure activities to ensure you are well informed about the process and can travel in safety and dignity.
  • A pre-departure health assessment and a fit-to-travel check before departure ensure that your health needs are assessed. Relevant information is shared with the Member State of Relocation, public health concerns are addressed and you will travel in safety and dignity.
  • IOM also provides pre-departure orientation sessions for you, sharing key information about Austria and the relocation programme. This is a valuable opportunity to give basic information on the country you will be relocated to, manage expectations and inform you of initial post arrival reception and early integration assistance.
  • Regarding the journey itself, IOM manages the movements, conducts a pre-departure embarkation session during which you are informed about the practical details of the travel, provides medical or operational escorts on the flight if necessary, supports groups in transit where needed and welcomes and receives you upon arrival at the airport.

How long does it take to get relocated?

If it is decided that you are eligible for relocation, the transfer should be completed as quickly as possible, it will take 2 months approximately.

When you move to Austria

What will happen when I arrive in Austria?

  • First placement

After your arrival in Austria you will come to the initial reception center in Traiskirchen, a place near Vienna, the capital of Austria. There, after a first interview, you will be granted refugee status. This entitles you to a stay of three years in Austria. Your data will be recorded and a picture of you and your family will be taken. In addition, medical examinations are carried out.

  • Documents

In your first week in Traiskirchen you will receive your card for people entitled to asylum. This will be your identity document.

Please pay close attention to the spelling of your name when your personal data are collected in the first interview at the initial reception center in Traiskirchen. The spelling will determine how your name will be written in the future in Austria: on your card for people entitled to asylum, on your convention passport, etc., it will be written exactly as it is recorded in this interview.

  • Long term perspective

After three years the Austrian authorities will check whether the reason on which you have been granted asylum continues to apply. If the security situation continues to be problematic, you will receive a permanent residence permit after three years. However, if the security situation in your country of origin has changed to the better, your refugee status will end, you will not receive any further residence permit and you will have to leave Austria.

  • Housing

You will spend your first weeks in Austria in a temporary shelter together with other refugees. After the first administrative steps you will be assigned your own apartment. In some cases this too will be a transitional living in the assigned federal state. You will be brought there and will get to know your counselor.

What social welfare services are available for me?

The amount of state support a refugee receives in Austria depends on the one hand on his or her asylum status and on the other hand on the federal state in which he or she lives and seeks assistance in.

  • Asylum seekers

From the time of your asylum application until the finalization of the asylum procedure you are an asylum seeker. During the asylum procedure, the asylum seeker has a temporary right of residence and a right to primary care. Asylum seekers are assigned to a federal state and are bound to it during the asylum procedure. They do not have access to the labour market with a few exceptions, such as self-employment under certain conditions or access to specific branches with a high number of job openings.

  • Persons with subsidiary protection status basically enjoy full access to social benefits like means tested minimum income. In some federal states however, they cannot get any means tested minimum income (Burgenland, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria). In Vorarlberg they can only get it if they keep to the Integration Agreement.
  • Recognised refugees, convention refugees and those who are entitled to political asylum have completed an asylum procedure and have been recognised under the Geneva Refugee Convention. They have full access to the labour market and to social benefits equal to that of Austrian citizens like demand oriented minimum income, family allowance and so on.

What can I do if I don`t find a job immediately after getting access to the job market?

Especially in the early days, many have difficulties finding a job, since they need to learn German first. During this time, recognised refugees (if they are in need of help) receive means tested minimum income. 4 months after a positive asylum decision, asylum seekers no longer receive primary care [link] and must apply for means tested minimum income. This lasts up to 8 weeks, during this time they don’t receive any money. The means tested minimum income for asylum seekers in Vorarlberg is linked to an integration agreement.

Family reunification

Can I bring my family to Autria?

In terms of numbers, family migration is the largest form of immigration to Austria (only 2014 – 2016 the figures of Asylum applications in Austria have been higher than family reunification).

Family members in the context of the settlement and residence act are spouses (as well as registered partners) and unmarried minors including adoptive and step children. Spouses and registered partners must be 21 years of age or older when applying. This requirement applies to both spouses.

Actually, the system of Austrian law regarding family reunification is quite complicated. There are different rules for persons with granted protection, family members of Union citizens,[1] Austrians[2] and family members of Third Country Nationals [link to Glossary].

  • Asylum seekers

As an asylum seeker you cannot bring your family to Austria.

  • Persons with granted protection in the first three months

If you have asylum status in Austria (granted protection) you can bring your family to Austria. From the moment you received asylum status, the family should apply within 3 months. Your family needs to submit the application for family reunification at the Austrian embassy of the country your family is staying. It is easy to bring your family in the first three months of positive asylum. After three months you need to fulfill certain requirements such as income and adequate housing. The Austrian Red Cross informs about family reunification in different languages.

  • Persons with granted protection after the first three months and other third country nationals

The possibilities for family reunification differ according to which residence permit you have in Austria.

As a third country national your family members are granted a residence permit “Red White Red Card plus” if they meet the general prerequisites for obtaining residence permits. The “Red-White-Red Card plus” grants its holders free access to the labour market.[3]

As a rule, they need to file their application at an Austrian Embassy in their country of origin (in the country where they currently reside). Exceptionally, they are able to lodge the application in Austria, if – depending on their citizenship – they can enter Austria without the requirement of a visa.

The following general requirements must be met in order that a residence permit can be granted:

  • Sufficient means of subsistence:[4] You must have a fixed and regular income enabling you to meet your livelihood without resorting to social assistance. The income needs to be equal to or exceed the minimum pension rate. In 2017, this standard income rate amounted to EUR 909,42 for singles, EUR 1.363,52 for married couples (also for registered partners) and an additional EUR 140,32 for each child. Parts of the running expenses (especially rent) are added to this required amount.
  • Health insurance:[5] You must have health insurance coverage, providing benefits in Austria and covering all risks.
  • Adequate accommodation according to local standards:[6] You must provide evidence of a legal title to an accommodation considered adequate to your family size according to local standards.
  • Valid travel document.[7]
  • Free Space in the relevant quota (there is quota for family members in each province of Austria).
  • Your family members have to provide evidence of German language skills on A1 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages,[8] when first applying for a residence permit.[9] Furthermore, they are obliged to sign a so called “module 1” of the „Integration agreement“: Module 1 is intended to provide German language skills for in-depth basic language use (i.e. language skills at A2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). If your family members do not pass a written exam, it is not possible to renew the residence permit after two years of residence.
  • Authorities have to check whether or not your family members are considered as a threat to public policy, public security or public health.[10]

[1] Art 51 and 54 residence and settlement act.

[2] Art 47 residence and settlement act.

[3] Art 17 Act Governing the Employment of Foreign Nationals.

[4] Art 11 Para 2 N° 4 and Para 5 residence and settlement act.

[5] Art 11 Para 2 N° 3 residence and settlement act.

[6] Art 11 Para 2 N° 2 residence and settlement act.

[7] Art 20 Para 1 and Art 2 Para 1 N° 2 and 3 residence and settlement act.

[8] Council of Europe, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (2011).

[9] Art 21a residence and settlement act.

[10] Art 11 Para 4 residence and settlement act.

Information for different groups

What are special provisions for women and girls?

Women and girls – refugees, especially if they are alone, face more risks. That is why they have the right to have their specific needs addressed when they are asylum seekers as well as when they are granted international protection.

Women and girls are considered in greater risk of various forms of violence just because they are females. This include:

  • physical and sexual violence against women,
  • domestic violence,
  • forced marriage,
  • “honour” crimes,
  • trafficking for prostitution or forced labour, and
  • other forms of persecution and violence.

These should be considered as reasons for granting international protection to women and girls in Austria.

Special provisions in reception for women and girls

Women and girls have the right to submit an individual asylum application when family members accompany them. This means that their request will be treated and examined separately of request of family members accompanying them. They are entitled to be interviewed by female staff when their asylum request is examined. They should also be provided with women interpreters; however, in Austria this is not always possible because of the lack of qualified interpreters for many languages of refugees, other than European.

In reception centres women and girls are accommodated separately from men and boys, except when they want to be accommodated with their families. Private bathing and sanitation facilities should be provided for women and girls in reception centres.

Girls and women’s rights and protection:

  • Girls have the right to education, according to their wishes and circumstances. Elementary education is obligatory and girls are enrolled in schools regardless of their status. They can also choose to go to secondary school both as asylum seekers and as refugees. Women refugees can also enrol to universities. However, if you want to study as an asylum seeker, there are certain criteria to fulfil. For more information, see chapter Education (link to chapter).
  • Women and girls have health care rights depending on their status. Usually they all have health care services regarding their reproductive health (women health) available. You can get a yearly preventive check-up for cervical and breast cancer at the gynecologist (in German: Frauenarzt/Frauenärztin). The gynecologist is the adequate consultant for any health issue related to sexual evolvement, birth control, pregnancy and other similar matters. There are male and female gynecologists. As there might occur long waiting times for an appointment at a gynecologist contractually partnered with your health insurance you should try to organize that in time.

Pregnancy and birth:

When you are pregnant you are expected to visit and consult a gynecologist or adequate medical professional to take care of your and the child´s healthy development and wellbeing. The time span for basic medical healthcare of mother and child includes pregnancy up to the child´s age of five years. Be aware, that the health insurance organization only covers the costs of the childbirth, if you have entered Austria at least 8 weeks before the expected date of birth. Otherwise it is possible that you have to bear the costs of the birth by yourself.  . For more information, see chapter Health.

  • If a woman or a girl is a victim of domestic violence (violence committed by the member of her family) she can ask for special protection. She has the right to be separated from perpetrator and protected by the police if necessary. If she wishes, she can go to special shelter for women and children – victims of violence. The locations safe and is kept a secret from those who may hurt her. She is entitled to medical and psychological help. For more information, see chapter Protection against violence (link to chapter).
  • If a woman or a girl – victim of domestic violence is asylum seeker, her application will be examined separately if she wants to. If she is already granted asylum or she has temporary residence, she can get renewal of the residency independently of family member (husband or partner). This applies also to women and girls who got their temporary residence as a result of family unification.
  • If a woman or a girl is a victim of trafficking in human beings, which means she is exploited, by tricking or forcing, for prostitution, forced labour or other activities she does not want to be involved in, she can ask for a special protection. Whether she is asylum seeker, refugee or has residence, as soon as she is recognized as victim of trafficking she must be provided protection, with a safe place to be accommodated, medical, psychological and legal help. She will also be informed and counselled on her rights regarding temporary residence, legal prosecution of perpetrators and other rights that constitute the assistance and protection program for victims of trafficking. In Austria, the intervention center for woman affected by human trafficking (LEFÖ-IB) is in charge of protection and helping female victims of trafficking. If you are a victim of trafficking you are not considered responsible for the things you were forced to do. For more information, see chapter Protection against violence.

What are special provision for men & boys?

The men health center provides personal advice and psychological counselling on the topics of health, sexuality, fatherhood and other relevant topics.   Also men and boys can be victims of violence. The procedure in these cases is the same as procedure in case of violence against women.  Men and especially boys can also be victims of forced labour and are in greater risk to become victims of trafficking. In Austria, the men health center with the  MEN VIA program is in charge of protection and helping male victims of trafficking. If you are a victim of trafficking you are not considered responsible for the things you were forced to do. For more information, see chapter Protection against violence.

What are special conditions, rights, services & support for children?

According to the Austrian law, a person who has not ended his or her 18. birthday is a person of minor age (is underaged). This does not mean that the person is a child until this age. The age limit of which a person is considered a child various form province to province: in Styra (Steiermark), Corinthia (Kärnten), Tyrol (Tirol) and Vorarlberg persons are children until they reached the end of their 14 year; from the end of 14 to the end of year 18 the person is a teenager. In Salzburg the age limit for being a child is with the end of year 12; from then onwards until 18 he or she is a teenager. The provinces Vienna, Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) and Burgenland do not differ between child and teenager but state that all until the age of 18 are “young persons”. The following information takes account to persons who are underaged, meaning all until 18 years old.

Children/teenagers/young persons are recognized as vulnerable groups and have the right to be specially protected, even when adult relatives accompany them.

Legal guardian files the application for international protection in the name of a child. This is usually the parent or other person who has the legal responsibility for the child. The asylum application of the child is included in the application of child’s parent(s) or legal guardian.

Children who are asylum seekers should not be separated from accompanying parents or relatives. The exception is when there are reasons to suspect that staying with parents or relatives may harm or endanger the child.

In such cases, officials in the asylum center should inform specialised child protection services, which will take actions to place the child in safe accommodation. Children who are staying with family members have the right to be accommodated separately from other adult asylum seekers.

All children until 18 years, including asylum seekers, those granted international protection and temporary residence, have the right to health care under the same conditions as Austrian citizens. For more information, see chapter Health.

Children under international protection or with temporary residence permit can go to kindergartens close to the place they live. Preschool children who are placed in an asylum center (asylum seekers) cannot go to kindergarten. Usually, basic childcare is organised by NGO (non-governmental organizations) who work in the asylum center.

All children have the right to education. Children – asylum seekers – should be enrolled in school as soon as possible. If the child does not speak the German language, he or she is entitled to preparatory language classes as well as extra support in language and other school subjects. In some elementary schools in Austria, from first to the third year of elementary school pupils aren´t evaluated along grades (1-5) but get verbal information about their progress in school. If evaluation of school progress is given in numerical grades or in verbal information is decided at individual school level, so it can differ from place to place.

Generally one year of kindergarten and nine years of school (elementary and secondary school) are obligatory. The child who already started schooling in other country will be tested before continuing school in Austria. This means that sometimes the child will be enrolled in a grade below its age if the school finds it is necessary. For more information, see chapter Education.

What are special conditions, rights, services & support for unaccompanied children?

If you are less than 18 years old and there is no adult person with you who is your family, relative or legally responsible for you, you are considered an unaccompanied child. Unaccompanied children are considered as vulnerable group and have the right to be specially protected.

If you are an unaccompanied child, you will be accommodated separately from other adult asylum seekers – usually in a student house or in an asylum center. You will get a guardian who takes responsibility for you and has the mandate to make important decisions in your best interest.

However, you should be informed and the guardian should talk to you about every decision about you. Your guardian has to give you information on your rights, services that are available to you and opportunities you have.

You have the right to be re-united with your family, whether your family is in your country of origin or in some other country, but there are some conditions you have to meet. The procedure is quite complicated and it can last for a long time, but some organisations can help you; your guardian will give you advice how to proceed. You have the right to be in contact with your family.

If you decide to apply for asylum, your application has priority in decision-making. Your legal representative and your guardian have the obligation to prepare you for the interviews regarding your asylum application.

As an unaccompanied child (person under 18 years), you have the right of health care the same as Austrian nationals. For more information, see chapter Health.

You also have the right to go to school, in accordance with your age and interests. To decide which school grade you will start with, your previous education will be assessed. The additional classes and support in learning the German language will be provided to you. For more information, see chapter Education.

As long as you are in Austria, you are entitled to have psychological help, support and guidance if you need it. Your guardian has the obligation to connect you with professionals and organizations who are helping young refugees.

Children and young persons who are separated from their family or travel without adult family members are considered particularly in danger to become victims of trafficking in human beings. That includes smuggling and exploiting children and youths, by force or by blackmail, for force labour, prostitution, begging or some other criminal activities. The police officers you get in contact with, social workers, your guardian and some organizations can help you with providing protection and support if you feel a victim. You can be accommodated at secret location so other people don’t know where you are and cannot find you.

What are special conditions, rights, services & support for families?

For many people fleeing her family is an important support, it gives security and stability. Studies show that people integrate more easily if they are not constantly worried about those who are left behind.In Austria asylum seeking families are usually accommodated together in an asylum center.

If several family members make an asylum application, it will be examined together. Each member of the family receives its own decision.

If the conditions for granting international protection exist for a family member, the other family members receive the same protection status.

Familyreunion

If you are granted asylum in Austria you have the right to bring a few members of your family. These are your husband or wife and children if they are under 18 years old. If the children are older than 18 years or married, they cannot be repatriated to Austria. The application should be made within three months of granting asylum, otherwise stricter provisions apply (housing, income and health insurance must be proven).

To whom does the scheme of familyreunion not apply in Austria?

  • Children over 18 years
  • Parents of children who are older than 18 years
  • grandparents
  • Uncles, aunts, cousins and other family members

In Austria for the reunification scheme the term “family” is defined rather strict: A family that could/should be reunited are mother, father and children younger than 18 years according to this definition. To prove the kinship DNA tests can be required by the authorities to be paid for the time being, in the case of a positive result, the costs will be refunded. The marriage must have existed before entry into Austria and be proven with documents, traditional marriages are often not recognized. For multiple marriages, only one spouse may follow suit. Travel costs must be paid by yourself.

Family members of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can bring a visa application to the Austrian Representation Authority three years after the final granting of the status of subsidiary protection at the earliest. In addition, they must prove housing, income and health insurance.

Information and help with family reunions for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are available at the Red Cross: https://www.roteskreuz.at/migration-suchdienst/suchdienst/familie-zusammenfuehrung/

Make an appointment: https://www.roteskreuz.at/service/kontakt/suchdienst/

What are special conditions, rights, services & support for persons with disabilities?

Persons with disabilities are those with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. This includes wheelchair users and people with other mobility impairments, blind and deaf people, people with mental health issues – or ‘psychosocial disabilities’ – and people with intellectual disabilities.

Reception conditions and asylum procedure for persons with disability

Persons with disabilities are considered particularly vulnerable and have the right on protection and treatment appropriate for their condition. This means that they have the right to be accommodated, while they are asylum seekers, separately from other adult asylum seekers in reception centres. Safety of persons with disability is of particular concern.

In some cases, disability – usually issues of psychological health and intellectual disabilities, can prevent the person to make decisions which are in her/his own best interest. In such cases it is possible by the law for person’s legal capacity to be restricted. This means that the person is not completely independent to make legally bounding decisions. Such person must have legal guardian who supports and assists in decision making in the best interest of the person with disability. This includes decision regarding applying for asylum. Legal guardian should participate in each stage of the asylum decision process but he/she can not act instead of the asylum seeker with disability.

  • Protection of rights of Persons with Disability

As restriction of legal capacity is very delicate issue, if you are a person with disability or you know a person with disability who might need assistance in participating in legal matters, it is advisable to ask for legal help.  The “Sozialministeriumsservice”, a service by the social ministry and the Ombud for people with disabilities are the central contact point for all questions related to discrimination on grounds of disability. Also, there is a number of associations of persons with disabilities and other non-governmental organizations which can offer advise and assistance like Caritas, Diakonie and Lebenshilfe.

  • Right to health care

If you are a person with disability you have the right on health care appropriate for your condition, whether you are asylum seeker or granted international protection in Austria.

  • Right to education

You have the right on education, depending on your status and age, same as asylum seekers or persons granted asylum without disability. This means that, as asylum seeker, children with disability have the right on elementary and secondary education. Persons with disability who are granted international protection have the same rights on education as Austrian nationals. Elementary school (link to education) is mandatory in Austria for all children between the ages of six and fifteen, including for children with disabilities (link to education). Children and youth with disability have the right to go to secondary school and university, if they want to. Throughout education, children and youth with disability in Austria are entitled to have assistance in order to attend school and learn.

  • Right to work

Persons with disability have the right to work in Austria, including persons granted international protection. If you are a person with disability granted international protection in Austria, it is advisable to inquire about employment measures for persons with disability. This information can be obtained from Public Employment Service AMS (link to Employment) or from associations of persons with disabilities.

  • Protection against discrimination

Discrimination of persons with disability is forbidden in Austria. If a person with disability experiences discrimination – that he or she is treated differently from persons without disability, he/she has the right to be protected. In such case, you can ask advice of file a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsperson for Persons with Disability (link to Protection against discrimination) or contact association of persons with disability nearest to you. Bear in mind, however, that there are usually no interpreters for your language in institutions and organizations which are not specialized in helping foreigners. You might need to ask someone who speaks German and your language to help you.

What can I do if I am a victim of trafficking in human beings?

What is trafficking in human beings?

Victims of trafficking in human beings are persons who are controlled by other persons, to be exploited for things they would not choose to do on their own or to work without payment.

Victims can be recruited and sometimes sold by acquaintances, relatives or criminal gangs, often with promises of well-paid jobs. They are usually transported from one country to another or from the remote rural areas to cities. Victims are manipulated, forced, blackmailed or tricked by traffickers, their documents and financial means are usually taken away as to make them completely dependent on the traffickers. Victims are often physically, sexually and psychologically abused; this sometimes includes keeping them under control by using drugs.

Traffickers exploit victims or transfer them to others for purpose of forced labour, prostitution, criminal activities or other things victims would not normally choose to do.

Who is in risk?

Women and children, particularly unaccompanied children, are in greatest risk to become victims of trafficking. However, men can also become victims, usually to be exploited for forced labour.

Person can become victim of trafficking in country of origin, during the journey and even in destination country. That is why it is necessary to be very careful when someone offers help in transportation, crossing the borders and makes promises of good jobs. Caution is necessary even if this person is someone familiar, including relatives as in the most cases persons have been trafficked by someone familiar.

What are the reception conditions and how is the asylum procedure for victims of trafficking?

Victims of trafficking are considered particularly vulnerable in asylum procedure. They have the right on special protection and assistance from the moment they are identified as victims of trafficking.

In Austria there is a Task Force for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. Main actors in the Task Force are the Federal Ministries, relevant government departments, the Federal states, social welfare centres and civil society organizations, who work together in the whole Austrian territory.

Victims of trafficking will be placed in safe accommodation and provided medical, psychological, social and legal assistance, as soon as possible after being identified. Persons who can help in initiating protection program are police officers, reception centre staff, international organizations, like UNHCR, Red Cross, UNICEF or other civil society organizations working in the reception centres or in the field. The intervention center for woman affected by human trafficking (LEFÖ-IB) is in charge of protection and helping female victims of trafficking. The men health center with the  MEN VIA program in charge of protection and helping male victims of trafficking

Protection program for victims of trafficking

Victims of trafficking who are foreigners have the right to stay in safe accommodation in Austria and within 60 days they should decide if they want to accept offered program of protection.

The person cannot be expelled from the country during this period. Participation in protection program is voluntary. The victim will be informed about the program, help and assistance available and conditions he/she needs to comply with in the language he/she understands. No decisions should be made without the victim’s consent.

If the victim of trafficking accepts to be included in protection program, he/she has the right on temporary residence for one year, with the possibility of extension.

The victim of trafficking has the right on assistance and support regardless if she/he cooperates with the police and judiciary system. Identity and personal data of the victim are protected as confidential and are not made public. Victims of trafficking should not be prosecuted or penalised for activities they were forced to do by their traffickers.

If the victim of trafficking is a child additional protection measures will be put in place. A legal guardian will be appointed with parental responsibilities. The legal guardian has the obligation to secure all decisions are made in the best interest of the child; he/she is also obligated to inform and consult the child’s wishes in all matters.

The victim of trafficking has the right to apply for international protection. He or she will not be returned to the country where there is a risk of death, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

When the victim is to be returned to the country of origin or some other country, the safety of the return hast to be ensured.

What kind of help can I get if I am a torture survivor?

What is torture?

Torture is prohibited and considered as major violation of human rights. Torture is intentional infliction of physical or mental pain, carried out by state or government official for a specific purpose.

Physical torture can take the form of severe beating, electric shocks, burns, mutilation, rape and sexual assault, suffocation. The most common methods of psychological torture include humiliation, isolation, mock executions or amputations, threats and being subject to viewing the torture of others.

The perpetrators of torture, in most instances, are members of the police, prison guards, military forces or government officials. In some instances, the perpetrators of torture can be health professionals including doctors or nurses, or co-detainees, acting with approval or on the orders of a public official.

Reception conditions and asylum procedure for victims of torture

Torture survivors are considered as vulnerable and have to be protected and their needs addressed. Surviving torture is considered as reason for granting international protection. Therefore the application for asylum shall not be dismissed if it is highly probable that the applicant has suffered from torture or other serious forms of physical, psychological or sexual violence. To apply for asylum you have to articulate your application for asylum vis-à-vis a policeman/-woman IN Austria, your personal data will be registered (incl fingerprints, fotos etc) and a first interview is conducted by the police. Only after this first general interview your application is regarded as submitted.  The “Bundesamt für Asylwesen/BFA” (Federal Office for Refugees) then decides to which of the places for asylum seekers you will be transferred for food and accommodation within the basic care programme. During this first phase of the proceeding the BFA investigates if Austria or another European country is the competent authority for the asylum procedure (according to Dublin directive). If Austria is not deemed to be the competent country, asylum seekers are either transferred to the “EU first entrance country or the country of origin”. If Austria is the competent country for your asylum procedure, the BFA examines the reason for fleeing by doing interviews and its own investigations (second phase of proceeding). At the end of this phase BFA decides if international protection or subsidiary protection in Austria will be granted. Be aware that already in the beginning until the end of the asylum procedure you have the right to get legal advice and legal aid (either by your or BFA´s appointment).

In practice, it is only possible to enter Austria as an EU first entry country if you come by plane this is why at the airport border procedures are foreseen. But it is not likely that applications of vulnerable asylum seekers like victims of torture or violence or unaccompanied children are processed in the airport procedure, although accelerated procedures for public security reasons may be conducted.

For more information see:

https://www.caritas.at/hilfe-beratung/migrantinnen-fluechtlinge/faqs-zum-thema-flucht-und-asyl/faqs-refugees-and-asylum/

Legal advice:

https://www.volkshilfe-ooe.at/en/adults/advice/refugees/legal-advice/

http://www.arge-rechtsberatung.at/

Torture survivors have the right on appropriate reception conditions. This means that they should be provided with medical and psychological rehabilitation services and legal aid, according to the individual needs. Usually, in Austria, such help to torture survivors is provided by specialized non-governmental organizations like Hemayat.

In some cases, if a person is identified as a torture survivor, medical and psychological report can be added in support to asylum application. These reports are documents which provide evidence of the effects of torture on psychical and psychological health of the survivor. They are written by experts, usually psychologist, psychiatrists and medical doctors. Asylum seekers informed consent is necessary for writing and submitting this report.

What are special conditions, rights, services & support for LGBTIQ?

LGBTIQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer persons.

Reception conditions and asylum procedure for LGBTIQ persons:

LGBTIQ persons may have special reception needs and/or grounds for international protection. International law stipulates special guarantees regarding reception conditions and asylum procedures on the ground of persons´ sexual orientation.  In Austrian practice, however, these guarantees often are not fully implemented.

Protection against discrimination

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is forbidden by law in Austria. If you are LGBTIQ person – asylum seeker and/or you are granted international protection in Austria, you might consider asking support of LGBTIQ organizations:

https://www.gayinvienna.com/location/queer-base-lgbtiq-refugees

https://queerbase.at/

Some of them offer legal as well as psychological counselling and offer information in different languages. Bear in mind that it might take time to find qualified interpreter for your language, in some rare cases it might not be available at all.

International protection

What is international protection?

International protection is recognized to persons who are obliged to flee from their countries of origin because of to well-founded fear of being persecuted or of undergoing serious damage.

What types of international protection are there?

There are three types of protection: status of refugee, subsidiary protection and humanitarian protection.

  • The status of refugee in Austria is defined according to the Geneva Convention (1951):

“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.” (UN)

  • Subsidiary protection is recognised to third country nationals or stateless persons who do not qualify as refugees but who have well-founded reasons to believe that they would run the actual risk of undergoing serious damage (death, torture, inhuman treatment).
  • Humanitarian protection: If the person is not eligible for international protection, the General Agency for Immigration and Asylum (BFA: Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl) can grant the asylum seeker a permit for humanitarian reasons whenever there are “serious justifications of a humanitarian nature”.

As an asylum seeker you can apply for international protection in Austria even if you have entered Austria illegally and are without documents. As an applicant you will have to justify the circumstances of persecution or serious harm that have motivated the flight.

How can I apply for asylum in Austria?

The procedure for international protection

  1. Asylum application

When you come to Austria as a refugee, you have to apply for asylum. Therefore you can adress any police officer or any police department in Austria. Legal advisers and interpreters will help you in the asylum procedure.

  1. Verification of Austrian responsibility

The authority in charge will examine whether Austria or another country is competent for your asylum application. You have to actively participate in this process. You must provide all of your information to the authority in charge. For example, your name and date of birth. It is important that you tell the truth! You will not obtain asylum in Austria, if you have already been in another safe country.

  1. Asylum procedure

If Austria is the competent country for your asylum procedure, the authority in charge will examine your application for asylum. You will not obtain asylum in Austria, if you have left your country of origin for economic reasons. For example, because you did not have enough money in your country of origin. Show the authority in charge all the documents you have. The authority in charge must be able to reach you in the course of the asylum procedure. You must come to the appointments on time. You must remain in Austrian during your asylum procedure.

Currently, there are a lot of asylum procedures to be processed. The procedure has an average duration of 7 months (2018) but can last up to 15 months. While waiting for your decision, you will be in basic care (Grundversorgung). The government provides you with adequate housing, food, health care, public education for children and a pocket money of 40 € per month. If you receive a positive decision in your asylum procedure, you may remain in Austria. You are then allowed to work and can obtain basic care for 4 more months.

The decision has to be communicated in written form with relevant information about the rights, duties, timing and means to complete the application. The decision can be as followed:

  • recognized international protection- refugee status
  • refused refugee status, but given subsidiary protection
  • refused refugee status, but given humanitarian protection
  • application rejected as unfounded
  • inacceptable application (already applied in another EU country)
  1. appeal

Appeals against a negative first instance decision have to be submitted within 4 weeks of the receipt of the decision and the whole file is forwarded by the BFA to the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG). In case refugee status or subsidiary protection status is not granted by the BFA, the asylum applicant will be assigned a free legal adviser provided by the state at the time of notification of the first instance decision. If the legally binding negative decision in your asylum procedure remains, then you must leave Austria.

More information about the asylum procedure in Austria

What rights do I have as an asylum seeker?

As an asylum seeker you are entitled to proceedings according to the respective legal standards, in which the reasons for which you need protection in Austria are noted and examined, and if appropriate the respective protection status is granted. Like everyone else, as an asylum seekers you have the right to respect for the principal of non-refoulement (This international principle prohibits the deportation of persons to countries in which inhuman treatment or torture threatens, and forbids refugees to be sent back to countries where they risk persecution.) As an asylum seeker you have the right to basic care and to legal consultation.

What obligations do I have as an asylum seeker?

As an asylum seeker you must cooperate in the asylum proceedings, in other words to appear at all the meetings set down by the Austrian authorities, to tell the truth about all the reasons why you cannot return to your country of origin (or another country), and if possible to prove your reasons. If you want to apply for asylum in Austria, you should do this as quickly as possible after entering Austria, otherwise there could be negative consequences. Asylum seekers must immediately inform the BFA (General Agency for Immigration and Asylum) or the Federal Administrative Court about a change in their residence and always be available.

More information about rights and responsibilities of asylum seekers

Sources, Further information & Links

Austria Guidebook

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