The draft Aliens Reform Act 2017 (FrÄG 2017) has been presented to the Austrian Parliament. The draft document will further restrict refugee protection. It foresees amendments to a number of Austrian laws, including the Asylum Act and the Aliens Police Act.

One of the foreseen changes is the abolishment of the possibility for refugees to obtain a D-type Visa for humanitarian reasons. This visa type allows people to legally travel to Austria to seek protection. ECRE member Diakonie has warned against such a move, as it would leave no legal pathways for people to access protection on Austrian territory and could interfere with their right to family life safeguarded in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Another change brought forward with the reform is the introduction of more onerous financial hurdles for family reunification of refugees. Financial hurdles will be introduced by obliging refugees to cover the costs of evidence such as DNA tests to prove family links. Higher costs are liable to render the right to family reunification ineffective in practice, according to Diakonie.

Austria received 42,073 asylum applications last year. Out of those, 27,254 were deemed Austria’s responsibility, while the rest were channelled into Dublin procedures for people to be transferred to other Member States. The government had announced in 2016 that a quota of no more than 37,500 would be admitted to the country to have their claims processed.

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Photo: Demonstration in Vienna. Credit: Middle East Eye