In Austria immigration is now exceeding levels last seen in the 2015 crisis. Now they’re housing migrants in tents for the winter.
Federal government erects tented camps as winter approaches, to howls of protest
I have previously reported on the huge numbers of migrants now entering the European Union again. The total numbers for the EU27 mask some very important differences between the countries, however. Today I look at just one of these countries, which is now housing migrants in tents.
A country best known amongst British people as the land of ‘Edelweiss’, the von Trapp Family Singers, and some excellent skiing, Austria is facing an immigration crisis akin to that of 2015, when Germany’s Angela Merkel unilaterally and notoriously opened her country’s doors to all migrants and precipitated an enormous wave of immigration into the EU.
Austria’s migration crisis
Monthly levels now exceed the 2015
- Three tented camps so far
- 40 large tents
- Asylum levels are now the highest on record
[Sources: Das Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl (BFA) | Austrian media.]
Putting Austria’s problems into a UK context
Austria’s population is only 8,955,797, according to the latest official figures from the EU Commission at the end of 2021. By contrast, the UK’s population in 2020 was 67,081,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.
This means that readers have to multiply Austria’s numbers by 7.5 times, to understand the problems Austria is facing. To give an example, this would make the number of first-time asylum applications in Austria in the first eight months of this year 410,000. This number does not include those who cross the border undetected, nor a large number of Ukrainian refugees.
The locals are not a happy bunch of campers
Perhaps unsurprisingly, local residents in the areas where the tented camps are being constructed are not happy. One of the local mayors called the actions: “inhumane…, especially at this time of year.” He also acknowledged, however, that there was fear in his community about the new arrivals.
Equally unsurprising is the open letter to the government published by migrant support organisations. In this letter, they said
“Refugees in Austria are having to live in tents again. Nobody wants that and this inhumane accommodation is absolutely avoidable.”
What does the Austrian government say?
The Austrian government says it has tripled capacity this year but all beds have been taken, making it necessary to set up tents.
“These are short-time emergency measures to increase our capacities on a day-to-day basis,” a spokesman for the federal agency in charge told Agence France Presse.
In one Traiskirchen, had been the focus of outrage of local media. Amnesty International, upon doing an inspection of the camp in August 2015 called the conditions and treatment of the asylum-seekers “scandalous.” And this was in 2015, its now 2022 and nothing has changed
Austria’s problems have been exacerbated by the huge numbers of Ukrainian migrants fleeing Putin’s war in their own country. These people are not included in the official asylum statistics as they are given a fast-track procedure granting them the right to stay.
The opposition Freedom Party is highly critical of the government and is demanding an end to all immigration. “You have knowingly led our country into the same kind of disaster that we saw in 2015 and that will only get worse,” said FPOe leader Herbert Kickl.
Perhaps readers can imagine the opprobrium that would be heaped on the United Kingdom if it housed migrants in tents.
Instead, we house them in hotels. The government is now reported to be considering booking individual rooms in hotels, in addition to bloc-booking entire hotels as at present. The reason given is the sheer number of migrants who have now made the crossing from France.
The number of illegal migrants crossing from France to the UK has now exceeded 40,000 this year. Pro rata to the population, Austria’s asylum seekers are over 10 times this amount — and this figure doesn’t include those who don’t apply for asylum, nor Ukrainians, as I pointed out above.
There can be no question that the EU is facing another migrant crisis. The Commission has been unable for many years to get EU27 governments to agree to take a collective approach. Now the problems for the Commission are even worse.
Right-of-centre governments are being elected, making the chances of a relaxed EU-wide policy on immigration increasingly less likely. After all, if even laid-back, ultra-liberal Sweden has elected a right-wing government, you know something is afoot.
Sources: Das Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl (BFA) | Austrian government | EU Commission | ONS ]