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EESC fact-finding missions on the situation of refugees, as seen by civil society organisations - Mission report – Austria, 15-16 December 2015

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European Economic and Social Committee

Mission Report – Austria, 15 and 16 December 2015

In December 2015 and January 2016, EESC delegations visited eleven EU Member States to meet civil society organisations working with migrants in order to identify the problems, needs, failures, success stories and best practices of the various actors in the current refugee crisis with the final aim of providing input to EU policy making. The delegation to Austria was composed of Christa Schweng (Austria, Employers Group), Hans-Joachim Wilms (Germany, Workers Group) and Alfred Gajdosik (Austria, Various interests Group), supported by Judite Berkemeier, EESC secretariat.

Austria is both a transit country and a destination country for refugees. Since September 2015, 570 000 refugees have arrived and been attended to in Austria. The majority of them travelled on to Germany. Austria is currently providing basic services (principally accommodation and meals, but also legal assistance and language courses where possible) for 75 000 refugees. Several thousand currently need to be accommodated in emergency accommodation, even though they should already be in primary care facilities. These figures indicate that the main problem of this crisis is the lack of housing for refugees. Of the thousands of refugees in emergency accommodation (the figures provided do not tally with each other; some mention 6 000 people in this situation, others mention 8 000), half have lodged an application for asylum.

Throughout Austria, there is a lack of adequate housing and thousands of refugees must currently remain in temporary accommodation. The asylum procedure is complex and drawn out. It should be concluded after 6 months in the first instance, and after a further 6 months in the second instance, but the whole process currently takes well over a year. The number of asylum applications per month has increased seven-fold since 2013, from 2 000 applications in December in 2013 to 12 769 in December 2015. In 2015, a total of 90 000 applications for asylum were lodged in Austria, some 300-400 asylum application a day.

Public and private service providers are under a lot of strain and on 19 January 2016 Austria put a cap on the number of refugees it wants to accept: 37 500 this year and a total of 127 500 through 2019