[ 11. Nov 2007 ]

Debate on the right to stay in Austria


In the aftermath of the case of 15-year-old Arigona Zogaj, who was hiding from the authorities after her father and siblings were deported to Kosovo late last month, a number of similar cases surfacing in the media have created an alarming picture of deportation practices in Austria.


One of the main problems seems to be, that the - already extremely rigid - asylum trials take several years to be finished. According to refugee organizations, it's quite usual that applicants have to wait for more than six years before a final judgement has been given. A handful of families, all of the living in Austria for several years now, have submerged in the past week due to acute threats of being deported.

In one case, :: a 6-months old baby is threatened to be deported - without her mother, whose asylum-trial is still running. In one of the official letters the 21-year-old woman from Nigeria had received earlier this year, the authorities state that "submerging" in the former capital of Nigeria shouldn't be a problem for her, before listing jobs, where young women were exceptionally successful because they can easily attract male costumers - like sex-workers for example.

In another case, an 18-year-old man - who came to Austria unattended as underage refugee - rammed a knife in his chest on the main square of Steyr, a small town in upper Austria. Before, he had distributed leaflets describing his situation after having received a negative judgement on his asylum-trial.

The sheer number of similar cases having emerged only in the weeks after :: Arigona Zogaj draw media's attention to the issue, suggest that the migration law and it's execution systematically produces cases like those described above. And the question rises, why most of those cases had not been covered earlier - despite numerous reports of NGOs. In fact, the question can easily be answered considering the predominantly right-wing orientation of a large part of Austria's media-landscape.

There had been many protests in favor of the right to stay in the past months as well: on :: October 6, around 500 people were protesting in favor of Arigona Zogaj and her family in Frankenburg, Lower Austria; on :: October 9, up to 7.000 protesters had followed a call by the Green Party, demanding the right to stay for immigrants; on :: October 16, school-kids went on the streets in Vienna, Linz and Dornbirn; on :: October 20, people went on the street in Steyr in order to show their solidarity with Dennis, who had attempted suicide ten days before; and on October 25 people were gathering in Vienna in order to confront the migration policies of the government coalition.

The answer of authorities and right-wing politicians is quite clear. The conservative governor of Lower Austria, Erwin Pröll, had stated already a few weeks ago, that minarets would be "artfremd" - "foreign to the species", a term invented and used by the Nazis - didn't hesitate to support the minister for interior, Günther Platter, on his view that the deportation were legitimate. The chief of the Green Party in Lower Austria, Marlene Petrovic, has been denounced for presumable helping "illegal" immigrants and is facing a penalty of up to 6 months in case of being convicted. For 2008 regional elections are scheduled and the right wing parties - the two extreme right parties FPÖ and BZÖ as well as the conservative ÖVP - are fighting over votes in the far right spectrum.

In Carinthia's capital Klagenfurt, :: police raided the house of a woman, who has been giving language classes to refugees without charging them for three years now - "the officers had turned the whole house upside down", Christa J. told to the newspaper Der Standard, obviously without having a valid search warrant.

This article was published first by :: on 26 October 2007.