In addition, one finds “a worrying trend that some politicians in Austria are increasingly not recognizing and questioning human rights.” According to a broadcast, these “repeatedly use anti-human rights rhetoric to justify discriminatory measures” and thus contribute to a negative atmosphere towards human rights. “This is of particular concern as human rights are a cornerstone of a just society and must be protected and promoted at all times.”
“Austria is at a turning point in the fight for human rights,” says AI Austria Managing Director Annemarie Schlack. “The direction we take now will determine the coming decades. If we continue to marginalize people and deny them their human rights, it not only violates their rights, but also undermines the cohesion of our society.”
In the area of asylum, the human rights organization criticizes, among other things, the temporary accommodation of asylum seekers in tents and illegal pushbacks at the border in its annual report published on Tuesday. In addition, a total of 11,629 refugee children disappeared in 2022. Amnesty therefore demands the immediate allocation of guardians for all unaccompanied minors immediately after their arrival in Austria – and not only after admission to the asylum procedure.
Press freedom under pressure
Regarding the last point, the Ministry of the Interior refers to the fact that in 2022 more than 40,000 people, including children, would have evaded the asylum procedure – they would have waived their application for protection, traveled to other countries or returned to their homeland, it said in an opinion. Since minors are not allowed to be processed by the identification service, they could not be assigned later in other states.
AI also sees freedom of the press under pressure. For example, at several protest events in Vienna, the police prevented journalists from observing and reporting or did not adequately protect them from attacks by demonstrators. When the protest camp of the “Lobau Stays” activists was cleared in April 2022, the executive set up a separate press zone that was so far away from the camp “that it was not possible to adequately monitor the events.”
In addition, Amnesty refers to so-called SLAPP lawsuits (strategic legal proceedings against public participation) against journalists and concerns that the “Ibizia detective” Julian Hessenthaler, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, actually received a fair trial. In addition, the Freedom of Information Act, which has been announced for years, is still on hold.
Housing strategy required
A national housing strategy and comprehensive offers in the homeless assistance are also required. “Lack of information, high bureaucratic hurdles, language barriers and legal regulations, which led to the exclusion of both Austrian and foreign nationals from eligibility, also meant that many people did not have access to the corresponding support services.”
The Social Assistance Basic Law considers AI to be inappropriate. With its maximum rates, which are below the risk of poverty line, it does not enable people to live in dignity.
The Amnesty finding is shared by the Greens. For the assessment that human rights are at a turning point, one only has to look at Lower Austria. “It is well known that there are also politicians in office who would like to throw human rights on the dung heap of history,” said human rights spokeswoman Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic in a broadcast.