Im Mai 2019 gab es ein kleines Erdbeben in Österreich, das nur wenige verspürt haben. Obwohl der Auslöser der Erschütterung eigentlich viel mehr Konsequenzen hätte fordern sollen.
Denn im Mai 2019 wurde der Bericht des UN Hochkommissars für Menschenrechte über die Menschenrechtssituation von Migranten in Österreich, unter besonderer Betrachtung von Abschiebungen, publiziert. Der Bericht kritisiert das Vorgehen der Behörden im Allgemeinen und bringt Beispiele für „human rights protection gaps“ im Speziellen vor.
In Summe ist das Ergebnis ein katastrophaler Befund der Menschenrechtssituation für Migranten in Österreich.
Die Reaktion des Bundeskanzlers war allerdings eher verhalten. Sein „Lasse es nicht zu, Österreich schlechtzureden“ war alles andere als ein wertschätzendes Zeichen einer konstruktiven Absicht zur Verbesserung.
Betrachten wir – nach einem Jahr – was Österreich unternommen hat um die Vorschläge des Hochkommissars umzusetzen.
1. In December 2017, the Government of Austria adopted a programme proposing stricter migration measures to enable swift and efficient expulsion of failed asylum seekers or undocumented migrants. While recognizing the sovereign prerogative of Austria to govern migration within its jurisdiction, OHCHR recalls that State policies and measures must be within the bounds of international law, including Austria’s human rights obligations.
Es ist an sich schon ein Zeichen des Misstrauens seitens des Hochkommissars, wenn Österreich an seine internationalen rechtlichen Verpflichtungen erinnern werden muss – und das schon im Punkt 1 des Berichts! Aber der Hochkommissar hat schon recht! Denn während des Berichtzeitraums im Oktober 2018, hat sich die österreichische Regierung entschlossen dem UNO Migrationspakt nicht beizutreten und damit aus dem solidarischen Gefüge der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft auszuscheren. Seit dem Oktober 2018 ist in Österreich viel geschehen. Aber auch eine neue ÖVP/GRÜNE Koalition wird sich an dem UN Migrationspakt nicht beteiligen.
2. From 15 to 18 October 2018, an OHCHR team, led by the Chief of the Americas, Europe and Central Asia Branch, visited Austria in order to assess the human rights situation of migrants, with a particular focus on laws, policies and practice related to the return of migrants to their countries of origin or to third countries. This mission was the sixth OHCHR visit to a European country since 2016 focusing on assessing the human rights situation of migrants. The purpose of the mission was to gain a better understanding of the situation, identify human rights protection gaps in the process of returns of migrants from Austria, and to offer recommendations to the Government and other stakeholders.
Im Mai 2019, also nur wenige Tage nach dem Erscheinen des Berichts des UN-Hochkommissars, hat das österreichische Parlament die Errichtung eines staatsnahen Unternehmens zugestimmt, welches ab 2021 die Agenden der Rechtsberatung der Asylverfahren, der Grundversorgung, der Rückkehrberatung und der unabhängigen Menschrechtsbeobachtung von Abschiebungen übernehmen soll. Pikant: als Leiter des Bereichs für Rückkehrberatung und unabhängige Menschrechtsbeobachtung wurde just jene Person eingesetzt, die derzeit Geschäftsführer des Vereins VMÖ ist. Der Hochkommissar erwähnt diesen Verein zwei-Mal kritisch in seinem Bericht.
Page 11: “VMÖ also collaborates with and is funded by the Ministry of Interior to provide advice on voluntary return assistance and help authorities with “Dublin” transfers. VMÖ’s independence and the quality of its assistance, counselling and monitoring have been questioned by different counterparts the team interviewed, including public officials.”
Page 15: “VMÖ has been systematically monitoring charter flights for forced return and deportation but, as noted above, their independence and the quality of their human rights work has been called into question.”
3. The Austrian authorities provided the OHCHR team with full support in the preparation and conduct of the mission. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Karin Kneissl, greeted the mission on 16 October at the premises of the Austrian Integration Fund. The OHCHR team met with representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Labour and Social Affairs, the Division of Women’s Affairs and Equality in the Federal Chancellery, judges of the Federal Administrative and Supreme Administrative Courts, the Ombudsperson Board, and the staff of two reception centres and four detention centres where migrants were being held. The team also interviewed migrant men, women, boys and girls and met with other stakeholders, such as United Nations partners, civil society organizations and lawyers.
Die Volksanwaltschft übernimmt in Österreich eine wichtige Aufgabe im Bereich der Menschenrechte. Zum Zeitpunkt der Erscheinung war der nunmehrige Volksanwalt Dr. Walter Rosenkranz noch Klubobmann des Freiheitlichen Parlamentsklubs. Er hat sich am 09.Mai 2019 mit folgender OTS Presseaussendung zu Wort gemeldet.
„Es ist schon bemerkenswert, dass hier eine Institution wie die UNO rechtsstaatlich einwandfreie Verfahren in Österreich einfach pauschal über einen Kamm schert. Die Gesetze werden nämlich bei sämtlichen Asylverfahren auf Punkt und Beistrich genau eingehalten.“
4. The findings of this report are also based on the information gathered by the team, including communications from relevant Government institutions, official statistics, reports by national and international organizations, views and observations by international and regional human rights mechanisms, OHCHR interviews of migrants, transcripts of interviews conducted by immigration officers, judicial decisions on asylum and return, and media reports. In line with its methodology on human rights monitoring, OHCHR exercised due diligence to assess the credibility and reliability of sources and has cross-checked the information gathered to confirm its validity.
Und die damals vom Hochkommissar gesammelte Information wurde seit dem Untersuchungszeitraum nicht besser. Diverse parlamentarische Anfragen zeigen nach wie vor verheerende Hebequoten der erst-instanzlichen Entscheidungen. Medien schreiben über bedenkliche Missachtungen von Vereinbarungen bei freiwillgen Heimrisen, die katholische Kirche berichtet über illegale Abschiebungen von Christen nach Afghanistan und NGOs kämpfen gegen die politisch-motivierte Aussetzung des Rechts auf Asylantragsstellung während der Corona Pandemie.
5. The information collected by OHCHR indicates that a legal protection system concerning migrants is largely in place in Austria. Administrative decisions such as return orders can be appealed before independent courts; alternatives to detention are prescribed in law; the authorities have ensured the provision of free legal counseling to migrants, including in pre-removal detention, through the involvement of civil society organizations; and Interior Ministry case officers deciding on migration claims undergo mandatory pre-and post-deployment training, with human rights elements.
Der Rechnungshof hat u.a. in seinem Bericht über das Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl sich die Ausbildung der BfA Case-Owner genauer angesehen und krasse Ausbildungsmängel aufgezeigt. Ob dem OHCHR-Team die Schwächen der Ausbildung offen kommuniziert wurden bleibt offen. Immerhin kritisiert der Rechnungshof u.a. „Außerdem hielt der RH kritisch fest, dass der BFA–Grundausbildungslehrgang zur Zeit der Gebarungsüberprüfung stark auf die Vermittlung von Asylrecht fokussiert war. Dies stand im Spannungsverhältnis zu der vom BFA angestrebten Neuausrichtung auf die Aufgabenfelder Fremdenrecht und Rückkehr, da ohne entsprechende Ausbildung eine ordnungsgemäße Bearbeitung der Fälle nicht sichergestellt war. “
Siehe auch fairness-asyl: Rechnungsofbericht BfA
6. At the same time, the OHCHR team identified areas where improvements could contribute to increased protection of migrants and compliance with international human rights norms and standards. For instance, it was observed that migrants in vulnerable situations or in pre-removal detention, are more likely to face human rights protection gaps. Responsibilities for independent internal and external oversight rest almost entirely on the courts and ombudsperson (Volksanwaltschaft), limiting the space for civil society to monitor the human rights of migrants.
NGOs befürchten mit der Inbetriebnahme der BBU im Jänner 2021, dass eine zunehmende Isolierung der Asylwerber in den Grundversorgungseinrichtungen (abseits der Ballungsräume) bevorsteht. Damit einhergehend wird besonders in der Versorgung und Betreung von vulnerablen Personen ein intransparentes System geschaffen, das der OHCHR zurecht kritisiert.
7. OHCHR further noted that there is no general right to legal aid in asylum and foreigners’ law matters. Insufficient attention seems to be paid to the quality of legal counselling and translation. Appeals do not systematically have suspensive effect. There is a high prevalence of pre-removal detention in comparison with less coercive alternatives. There is also a lack of comprehensive approach and dedicated training, capacity and guidance to ensure compliance with international human rights norms and standards, including ensuring gender-responsiveness and identifying and assisting migrants in vulnerable situations. Contrary to international human rights standards, Austrian law permits the detention of children above 14 years of age for immigration purposes in certain circumstances. There is insufficient statistical information pertaining to the forced returns and deportations of migrants, including necessary disaggregation.
Österreich erlaubt noch immer die Anhaltung von Kindern im Zuge der Schubhaft, wenn sie in Begleitung ihrer Eltern sind. Erst kürzlich wurde ein Familie mit einem 7-jährigen in den frühen Morgenstunden überraschend in Schubhaft genommen. Der Fall ist auch deswegen durch die Medien gegangen, weil die Abschiebung während der Corona-Pandemie stattfinden hätte sollen und die Familie kooperativ an einer frewiliigen Ausreise mitgewirkt hatte.
8. Thus, OHCHR is concerned that in addition to frequent amendments to the legal framework introducing stricter provisions, important protections for the human rights of migrants are being eroded.
OHCHR ist zurecht besorgt über die Erodierung der Menschenrechtsgarantien für Migranten in Östereich. Fremdenpolizei, Asyl- und Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz sind ein Liebkind der Novellierung. Auffallend, dass trotz offenkundiger „human rights gaps“ diese Novellierungen in den letzten Jahren immer eine Verschlechterung für Asylwerber gebracht haben.
9. OHCHR has the mandate to promote and protect the human rights of all. This includes migrants, regardless of their status, in particular those who are in vulnerable situations, excluded and marginalized. OHCHR stands ready to continue cooperating with the Government of Austria, including through provision of technical assistance to implement recommendations made in this report and to support the Government in fulfilling human rights obligations towards migrants.
Es wäre interessant herauszufinden, ob Österreich das Angebot der Unterstützung wahr genommen hat.
2 Overview of applicable national legal and policy framework
Die Punkte 10 – 20 geben einen Überblick über die geltenden nationalen rechtlichen und politischen Rahmenbedingungen. Sie geben keinen Kommentar oder eine Beurteilung über die vorgefundene Situation ab.
3 Main Findings
a. Identification of migrants in situations of vulnerability and assistance
21. Migrants in vulnerable situations are persons who are unable to effectively enjoy their human rights, are at increased risk of violations and abuse and who, accordingly, are entitled to call on a duty bearer’s heightened duty of care, including in all processes concerning decisions on their return.
Österreich geht nach wie vor sehr restriktiv mit der Feststellung und Betreuung von vulnerablen Personen um. So werden z.B. Jugendliche zunächst in normalen Erwachsenenunterkünften untergebracht. Erst wenn eine multi-faktorielle Altersfeststellung eine Minderjährigkeit feststellt, wird der/die Betroffene in einer Jugendunterkunft untergebracht. Abgesehen von den fragwürdigen Altersfeststellungen, wird der/dem AsylwerberIn die Angaben zum Alter zunächst nicht geglaubt und der erhöhte Betreuungsbedarf einfach ignoriert.
22. However, the laws relating to the reception of asylum seekers do not foresee a mechanism for identifying persons in vulnerable situations, including in detention. According to the OHCHR team’s observations and information it received, the identification of people in vulnerable situations throughout the asylum and return procedures, including in pre-removal detention, tends to be random and unsystematic, for instance only when vulnerabilities are clearly visible, or dependent on disclosure by the individuals themselves.
Vertreter von NGOs, Rechtsberatungseinrichtungen und Mitglieder der Zivilgesellschaft berichten immer wieder von stereotypen Denkmustern und vorgefertigten Meinung der zuständigen BearbeiterInnen. So liegt es an den zugewiesenen Case-Ownern und deren individuellen, persönlichen Betrachtungsweise eine Vulnerabilität festzustellen, weit abseits einer strukturierten, prozessgesteurten Feststellung .
23. The team has received information from multiple stakeholders, and has seen BFA decisions, suggesting that interviews of asylum seekers and migrants by the police and BFA officials often take place in an atmosphere of distrust. These seem to focus more on identifying so-called “Dublin cases” and so-called “safe country cases”, than on supporting individuals to provide exhaustive accounts that might also bring to light a situation of vulnerability. Moreover, judges and lawyers dealing with asylum and returns mentioned cases of victims of gender-based violence who were not encouraged or able to provide a full account of their experiences in a gender-responsive manner (beyond same-sex interviewing), including in a court hearing. When victims were ready to share their experiences, it was often too late in the process to impact decisions on asylum or return.
Die Einvernahmen des BfA sind teilweise stark von Authorität der Referenten geprägt. Die Interviewführung und Protokollietrung lässt den AsylwerberInnen oft nicht den Raum ihre Flüchtgründe frei und objektiv darzustellen. Beispielgebend hier eine „Textperle des BfA“ einer Interviewsituation widergegeben werden.
Ein junger Afghane versuchte im Verlaufe eines fast 7-stündigen (!) „Interviews“ dem Vernehmungsbeamten zu erklären, warum er sich in einer bestimmten Situation so und nicht anders verhalten habe, und sagte nach längerem Hin und Her (weil es über den Dolmetsch offenbar nicht funktioniert hatte) in einwandfreiem A2-Deutsch: „Das ist in unserer Kultur eben so.“ – Darauf der entnervte Beamte: „I scheiß auf dei‘ Kultua!!“
24. Late disclosure of vulnerability by the claimant during the asylum procedure should not automatically lead to an adverse judgment on their credibility, especially as reluctance to identify the actual extent of abuse or persecution may stem from feelings of shame, trauma, fear, or may not be understood as relevant in the absence of specific questioning by officials. Furthermore, the OHCHR team learned that confidentiality at all stages of the judicial process was not always ensured.
Die Praxis der Steigerung, also der negativen Bewertung eines neuen Vorbringens nach der erst-instanzlichen Einvernahme, wird auch weiterhin von den Behörden vollzogen. Auch dann, wenn die Umstände für das nicht-Vorbringen durchaus verständlich sind. Oft ist AsylwerberInnen die asylrechtliche Bedeutung einzelner Umstände nicht bekannt und geben sie während der Verfahren nicht an bzw. werden dazu erst gar nicht befragt. Scham und eine provokative Befragrungsführung führen oft dazu, dass nur die notwendigsten Details widergegeben werden. Die Glaubwürdigkeit wird in weiterer Folge in Zweifel, mit dem Verweis eines „gesteigerten Vorbringens„, gezogen.
25. Failure to identify situations of vulnerability hinders migrants’ rights to an individual assessment, to liberty and to be protected from refoulement, as well as due process rights at each stage of the returns and appeals processes. Such failure may additionally limit access to other human rights protections concerning counselling, rehabilitation, and health services.
26. The team learned that there was generally little cooperation among different actors, including governmental entities and a broad range of civil society organizations working with migrants in vulnerable situations. A good practice identified during the mission are training sessions delivered to the Ministry of Interior on identification and support to victims of trafficking, in close collaboration with IOM and the non-governmental organization Intervention Centre for Trafficked Women and Girls (LEFÖ-IBF).
Seit dem Bricht des Hochkommissars hat sich diesbezüglich keine grundsätzliche Verbesserung gezeigt. In NÖ wurden allerdings die Angenden der unbegleiteten minderjährigen AsylwerberInnen von einem neuen Team übernommen und es zeigen sich deutliche Verbesserungen.
Das Verfahren gegen den NÖ Landesrat Gottfried Waldhäsul und gegen die für die Belange von unbegleiteten Minderjährigen Flüchtlingen zuständige Mitarbeiterin beim Amt der Landesregierung, Rosemarie Wollinger, ist allerdings noch nicht abgeschlossen.
27. The team was also informed by the Ministry of Interior of the existence of an internal decree on the identification and support to victims of trafficking. In addition to this internal regulation, OHCHR would invite Austrian authorities to provide for a reflection and recovery period in the law in order to strengthen identification practices.
Nach wie vor gibt es keine Orientierungsphase um die Identifikation von vulnerablen Personen zu verbessern. Eine systematische Befragung zur Identifizierung besonders vilnerabler Personen fehlt noch immer.
28. While States are under an obligation not to return victims when they are at serious risk of harm (including intimidation, retaliation and re-trafficking), there are concerning reports thatin so-called “Dublin cases” and “safe countries”, and through the associated “fast track” return process, potential victims of trafficking, particularly women, have beenforced to return to countries they had fled due to traffickers. This practice has also reportedly applied to migrants in other situations of vulnerability.
29. The team notes with concern reported cases of forcible return of family members of migrants who have a right to remain temporarily due to a situation of vulnerability, including pregnancy and urgent mental health needs. The migrants entitled to protection were effectively given the “choice” of foregoing their right to temporarily remain and agreeing to a “voluntary return” in order to be with their family, without regard to the exacerbation of vulnerability this may cause.
Trotz der Kritik des Hochkommissars kommen nach wie vor Fälle vor, wo Familienmitglieder getrennt werden, auch bei vulnerablen Personen. Ein besonders krasser Fall hat sich im Jänner 2020 zugetragen, wo eine Familie von ihrer Mutter getrennt wurde und kurz vor der Abschiebung bevorstand.
30. The emphasison expediency of asylum decision-making and returns processes leaves insufficient time to properly identify and support migrants in vulnerable situations.
Der hohe Personalstand des BfA hat eine Situation erzeugt, wo die Asylantraäge derzeit in der Regel innerhalb von wenigen Monaten bearbeitet und entschieden werden. Die Fehlerquote hat sich allerdings dabei kaum verändert und es gibt keine wahrnehmbare Verbesserung in der Feststellung von volnerablen Personen.
b. Training and capacity
31. Closely linked to the identification of vulnerability is the capacity of officials to comply with international human rights norms and standards. The Ministry of Interior indicated that articles 3 (prohibition of torture) and 8 (right to family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights are included in mandatory e-learning trainings for all BFA case officers, and that the latter undergo mandatory internal pre-deployment training on “theoretical principles and practical knowledge”. Further relevant training isprovided to officers on a voluntary basis, such as theEuropean Asylum Support Officetraining modules on interviewing vulnerable persons and children; a training-of-trainers module on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation; in-person courses on interviewing vulnerable persons in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);and an intercultural training in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). As good practices, the BRIDGE initiative between the Government and UNHCR aims atprovidingon-the-job trainingas well as specific assessment methods for the evaluation of asylum procedures.
Seit dem Bericht des OHCHR hat der Rechnungshofbericht über das Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl greift wichtige Themen auf und kritisiert vor allem den heterogenen Ausbildungsstand des BfA. Ebenso kritisiert der Rechnungshof die Arbeit der Qualitätssicherung und fordert mehr Transparenz und Engagement in diesem Bereich.
32. Despite the availability of training programmes, the team learned that capacity gaps remain. In particular, there are no compulsory training modules or specific mandatory guidelines or protocols for BFA officers dedicated to human rights, gender-responsiveness or the identification and assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations. Furthermore, although a few civil society organizations have been involved in the elaboration and implementation of voluntary training programmes, it appears they have not been consulted on the elaborationand implementation of existing mandatory training materials.
Weder wurden die zivilgesellschaftlichen Organisationen einbezogen, noch wurde ein kohärenter Schulungsplan für alle involvierten Personen (Übersetzer, Case-Owners, Richter, Schubhaftpersonal, medizinisches Personal in Schubhaftzentren etc.) erstellt. Die vom OHCHR und Rechnungshof kritisierten Mängel sind nach wie vor nicht behoben.
33. Consequently, and in addition to the sharp increase in BFA staff numbers over recent years, many case workers may not be adequately trained inusing techniques that are responsive to the needs of migrants, particularly those in situations of vulnerability. This has an impact on the quality of the interviews, assessments made and decisions taken by BFA officers. It also restricts a migrant’s ability to talk about their experiences and provide a comprehensive statement.
Mängel bestehen auch im Bereich der Gutachter und Sachverständigen. Kurz nach dem Untersuchungszeitraum des OHCHR kam eine „Recherche“ des länderkundlichen Gutachters Karl Mahringer bei einem Verfahren des BVwG in Linz zum Einsatz. Die in Auftrag gegebene „Recherche“ ist oberflächlich, geprägt von einer Atmosphäre der Angst der befragten Personen und inhaltlich fragwürdig. Die Verwendung der „Recherche“ ist umso erstaunlicher, als dem Gutachter per Gerichtsurteil die Zertifizierung entzogen wurde und darin festgestellt wurde dass: „Ing. Mag. Mahringer kann zwar den Aufbau eines Gutachtens in der Theorie beschreiben, aufgrund seiner mangelhaften länderspezifischen Kenntnisse und der damit verbundenen Ungenauigkeit und Unschärfe bestehen jedoch Zweifel, dass Ing. Mag. Mahringer in der Lage ist, jeweils die für eine Gutachtenerstattung (…) erforderlichen Grundlagen lege artis zu erheben und zutreffende (…) Schlussfolgerungen zu ziehen.“
34 In a number of cases obtained by OHCHR and based on information received, negative decisions made by BFA were based on personal views and involved biased questioning in interviews and wrongful gender and racial stereotyping. It was also reported that gender-specific considerations are not systematically adopted, such as ensuring that women are interviewed separately, without the presence of male family members. In a widely reported case, the wording of a negative decision concerning a gay asylum-seeker was based on harmful stereotypes about homosexuality and how a gay person should be behaving. During the OHCHR mission, the team received information that the case officer involved in that case was still reviewing and conducting interviews. Even when the information about the sexual orientation of individuals was not disputed, there were reported cases where gay people were returned in a fast-track procedure to countries considered as “safe”, yet criminalizing homosexuality.
Dem Cae-Owner wurde zunächst die Approbation entzogen und lt. der parlamentarischen Anfragebeantwortung 3320/AB-BR/2019 vom Jänner 2019 wurden die Bescheide des Beamten auf „klischeehafte Formulierungen“ im Zuge einer internen Prüfung kontrolliert. Dabei wurden keine weiteren Mängel festgestellt. Dabei hat die interne Prüfung scheinbar diesen Bescheid übersehen, der bereits im Mai 2018 von demselben Case-Owner verfasst wurde. Die Zuverlässigkeit der internen Prüfung schint demnach lückenhaft zu sein und das Qualitätsmanagement des BfA mangehaft zu sein.
Soweit wir wissen wurde dem Case-Owner mittlerweile die Approbation nach einer Nachschulung wieder erteilt.
35. Not taking sufficient account of the gender-specific experiences, views and needs of individuals can lead to protection gaps. Although gender mainstreaming across the Government is one of the main areas of work of the Division on Women’s Affairs and Equality, it does not seem to extend to BFA or to judicial actors involved in asylum and return cases.
36. During the OHCHR mission, it also became evident that this gap in training and capacity extends to other key stakeholders,such as immigration detention guards, translators/interpreters and legal and return counsellors in detention facilities. Judicial actors noted that they do not receive dedicated training on migrants in vulnerable situations and do not have specific expertise or guidance. In addition, from the information received, there do not seem to be specific protocols or specialized chambers or dockets within the Federal Administrative Court concerning migrants in vulnerable situations, with the necessary expertise and confidentiality considerations. For example, the Federal Administrative Court ruled in June 2018 that, although it was acknowledged that anapplicant had homosexual relationships, it found that these relationships were not an expression of a homosexual identity but rather a “situation-related”homosexuality or bisexuality. OHCHR notes that the BRIDGE initiative seeks to enhance coordination between the courts, promoting the exchangesof experts with interested judges in workshops, which is to be welcomed.
c. Access to information and legal counseling
37. Good quality and independent legal representation as well as the provision of timely, continuous and understandable information are essential for migrants to be able to navigate complex legal systems. Legal aid is also vital to ensure the right to a fair trial and equality before the law. In 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended that Austria “ensure that legal aid and representation of adequate quality are systematically made accessiblethroughout the entire asylum procedure. ”The European Court of Human Rights has found that preventing an applicant from submitting reasons against his expulsion and from havinghis case reviewed with the participation of his counsel amounted to a violation of the procedural guarantees of Article 1 of Protocol 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Nur wenige Tage nach der Veröffentlichung des Berichts des Hockommissars und einen Tag vor Zusammenbruch der Regierung hat das Parlament die Errichtung der BBU beschlossen. Damit wird eine der wichtigsten Foderungen des OHCHR ignoriert und eine unabhängige Rechtsberatung nur mehr durch eine Weisungsfreiheit der Rechtsberateer sichergestellt.
38. In addition to having the right to competent, independent, free and confidential legal and other assistance, migrants are also entitled to accessible information and interpretation services. One concern in this regard is the availability, quality and professionalism of the interpreters assigned to cases. This is an essential issue given the importance of the accuracy of the information contained in the interview reports for the determination of the right of a migrant to be granted some form of protection. One migrant with whom the OHCHR team spoke was reportedly pressed by his interpreter to quickly sign his interview report “without creating unnecessary problems”. Interpreters are provided by BFA and are available for most languages of the countries of origin. However, interviews may also be conducted in a language the asylum-seeker is deemed to sufficiently and interpretation is often not done by accredited interpreters. One Urdu-speaking migrant told OHCHR that he had been provided with a Farsi-speaking interpreter and ended up signing an interview report he did not fully understand.
Seit dem Mai 2019 haben sich im Bereich der Übersetzer keine wesentlichen Verbesserungen ergeben. Mit der Einführung der BBU werden Übersetzer für die erst- und zweitinstanzlichen Verfahren zentral vom BBU bereitgestellt. Im Vorblatt zum BBU-Errichtungsgesetz wird näher auf die Austattung der BBU mit Übersetzern eingegangen. Dabei wird für die ersten 6 Monate von 5 Übersetzern (Pilotbetrieb) ausgegangen, ab dem Sommer 2021 von 15 Übersetzern gesprochen. Ob diese bedenklcih geringen Zahlen letztendlich stimmen kann noch nicht gesagt werden.
39. Austrian law does not recognize a general right to free legal counsel for migrants. An asylum seekeris entitled to free legal counsel in the admissibility procedure but not when his case is reviewed on the merits. On appeal, an asylum seeker has a general right to free legal aid before the Federal Administrative Court but not when the latter’s decision is appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. Thus, in 2017, the Supreme Administrative Court granted 440 applications for legal aid (22 %) and rejected 1,572 (78 %). A similar trend was observed in the first nine months of 2018 when the Supreme Administrative Court granted 273 requests (15 %) and dismissed 1,566 (85 %). The high rejection rate is based on the fact that the Supreme Administrative Court has held that most applications do not have a real prospect of success.Regarding third-country nationals who are not asylum seekers, free legal counselling is an entitlement on appeal only.
TODO 2019 Zahlen
40. Two organizations are contracted to provide State-sponsored legal aidto migrants: Verein Menschenrechte Österreich (VMÖ) and ARGE Rechtsberatung(Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst and Volkshilfe Oberösterreich). VMÖ also collaborates with and is funded by the Ministry of Interior to provide advice on voluntary return assistance and help authorities with “Dublin”transfers. VMÖ’s independence and the quality of itsassistance, counselling and monitoring have been questioned by different counterpartsthe team interviewed, including public officials. VMÖ explained to OHCHR thatitsrole is to “uphold the rule of law and not necessarily be the defender or the advocate of the migrant who often don’t help themselves”
ToDo Ecker asl Abteilungsleiter
41. As reported in the media and raised with concern by several interlocutors, the Ministry of Interior is in the process of establishing a “Federal Agency for the Provision of Care and Support” that would, among other responsibilities, assume critical tasks related to asylum and return, including legal counselling currently provided by civil society organizations. OHCHR regards it essential for the Government to ensure sufficient space for a pluralityof civil society actors to meaningfully promote and protect the human rights of migrants within migration processes and policies. This includes providing independent legal counselling and assistance,and facilitating administrative procedures and legal remedies.
TODO No signs of inclusion, current government more sympathetic, reduced to persons
d. Due process andtheright to effective remedy
42. As evidenced by several cases reviewed by the OHCHR team, and as highlighted above,the manner in which BFA has carried out some assessment interviews and made decisions raisesconcern. For instance, the team learned that during interviews, BFA staff sometimes pressed migrants to disclose detailed information about their sexual relationships and dismissed accounts of traumatic events as incomplete or incoherent, disregarding the significant effects trauma may have on memory,or refusing to believe migrants’ accounts based on wrongful stereotyping, prejudices and bias. In some cases, the Federal Administrative Court held that BFA had acted “completely arbitrarily” and failed to carry out an individualizedassessment ofthe legality of deportation in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement. In 2017, theFederal Administrative Court annulled or amended nearly 37 per centof BFA decisions on foreigners’ and asylum cases.
TODO eigene Zahlen
43. Migrants who receive negative asylum decisions, removal orders or immigration detention orders can appeal these decisions before the Federal Administrative Court at the first instance, and before the Constitutional Court or Supreme Administrative Court at the second instance. Yet, it is of concern that not all cases on appeal have automatic suspensive effect. While the courts are still able to grant suspensive effect, individuals must either apply for this separately or, in the context of appeals at first instance,the court is required to assess within one weekwhether suspensive effect should be granted. This implicates anadditional procedure that has to be finalized within a very short timeframe. In addition to reducing the time limits for lodging appeals in certain cases, these rules risk undermining due process safeguards and the right to an effective remedy, as well as the principle of non-refoulement.
44. The Supreme Administrative Court has regularly cancelled decisions of the Federal Administrative Court when it failed to hold hearings in cases involving migrants. However, the Supreme Administrative Court does not usually hold hearings in asylum cases. In addition, no special measures are in place to ensure the right to be heard for migrants in vulnerable situations, such as victims of sexual violence or trafficking. The team also heard complaints from multiple stakeholders that BFA staff were ill-equipped to appropriately handle such cases. Legal provisions and implementing measures to ensure legal representation for children and same sex interviewing are welcome but insufficient to address the various challenges.
45. The team was concerned that migrants had limited access to these procedural protections in pre-removal detention. Immigration detention is ordered by BFA with an automatic judicial review only after four months. According to information from 2017, only 16 per cent of migrants subject to immigration detention challenged the lawfulness of their detention, in comparisonto asylum cases, where almost all cases are appealed. This could be in part due to the fees and costs associated with such petitions at the first instance court, which do not apply in asylum cases.
ToDO Steffi Anfrage Schubhaft
46. OHCHR notes with concern that the Government of Austria viewed compliance with interim measures issued by United Nations human rights treaty bodies as conflicting with its obligations under European Union law. Interim measures can be issued in exceptional cases of individual complaints, where a treaty body deems it necessary to prevent irreparable harm to the victim of alleged violations. In cases concerning returns, interim measures are key to ensuring meaningful protection of migrants’ human rights and preventing violations upon return.
47. The right to liberty is a key protection guaranteed to all individuals under international human rights law, which involves a presumption of liberty and that any form of deprivation of liberty in the context of migration should only be ordered as a measure of last resort. Austrian law governing pre-removal detention provides for deprivation of libertyonly if less restrictive alternatives are not suitable and if the measure is proportionate. However, the law provides a non-exhaustive list of what could constitute a risk of abscondingor make detention a proportionate measure. For instance, a lack of cooperation with authorities regarding the implementation of return decisions,the existence of multiple asylum requests, or previous criminal misdemeanours are some of the criteria applied. While jurisprudence requires the entire behaviourof the migrant to be taken into consideration, the broad scope of the law risks undermining the principle that pre-removal detention is applied as an ultima ratio.
48. The effects of this wide-ranging criteria are evident in practice. For example, the OHCHR team spoke to migrants who, despite having family in Austria, found themselves in pre-removal detention. Some also had a past criminal record in Austriaandfelt that the pre-removal detention constituted an unfair additional punishment.
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49. The fact that Austrian law provides alternative measures to detention, such as reporting requirements, is positive. However, resort to lenient measures has diminished in recent years,while detentions have significantly increased. According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Interior following a parliamentary inquiry, between 2015 and 2017, the number of migrants subjected to lenient measures decreased from 571 to 348. During the same period, the number of migrants subjected to detention decisions more than tripled,from 1.436to 4.,627.
TODO Steffi Anfrage
50. In this regard, the OHCHR team was also concerned that no official statistics are collected on the average duration of pre-removal detention or regular custody pending deportation, nor are detention statistics generally disaggregated by sex or age. This impedes oversight to monitor and address potential overuse of and lengthy pre-removal detention.
TODO Steffi Anfrage
51. As a general rule, pregnant and nursing women, survivors of torture or trauma, migrants with particular physical or mental health needs, LGBTI individuals and others who have specific needs or are particularly at risk of violence should not be detained. Based on its observations and information received, OHCHR is concerned that migrants in vulnerable situations and with specific needs were sometimes detained. Staff at immigration detention centres, including medical staff, were often unprepared to handle such cases, in part due to training and capacity gaps. In response to the OHCHR team’s inquiry about the provision of appropriate medicines for migrants’ needs, an officer of an immigration detention centre stated: “sometimes they try to fool the doctor. They just want it [medication] to misuse it”.
f. Right to family life and the best interests of the child
52. The principle of the best interest of the child is anchored in the Austrian legal system, namely in the constitution and civil code. According to Austrian law, the child’s best interests must be a priority consideration in all actions taken by public and private institutions that affect children. BFA informed the team that it applies this principle when it issues return decisions.
TODO – Aberkennung zum 18. Geburtstag
53. According to BFA, unaccompanied migrant children are provided with a legal adviser acting as a guardian from the moment they arrive in a reception centre. While the OHCHR team did not encounter any children in detention during the visit, it expresses concern that thedetention of children above 14 years of age for immigration purposes is permissible under Austrian law, which contravenes international human rights standards.
54. The team identified a general need to strengthen referral mechanisms in reception centres and learned about inconsistency in referrals to child and youth welfare offices.
55. The OHCHR team is also concerned about reports it received of negative consequences for family life arising from the deletion of article16 (3) of the Federal-Office Procedure Act. The effect of this amendmentis that not all appeals of asylum claims of family members are granted suspensive effect. OHCHR was thus informed about cases in which families were separated by deportation of one member as a result of this amendment despite the legal requirement that an individual assessment be undertaken for each family member.
56. The “buddy system” practice that teams up an Austrian adult with an unaccompanied child asylum-seeker (e.g. used by the Salzburg Child and Youth Ombudsman) is a good practice. Another welcome practice involves the briefings provided by IOM to non-governmental organizations operating as return counselors on child protection in the framework of assisted voluntary return and reintegration as well as on support to medical cases.
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g. Access to services
57. In the area of access to services, Austrian law reflects European Union law, namely the Reception Conditions Directive, according to which asylum seekers are entitled to basic care (material reception conditions) if they do not have sufficient means. Applicants who receive afinal negative decision, including in cases of envisaged or pending appeals to the high courts, are entitled to basic care provided they cooperate with the competent authority regarding their return. If they get a positive decision, they continue to receive such care for an additional four months.
TODO NÖ, Payment periods
58. The team learned about ongoing discussions in Austria related tothe adoption, at the federal level, of a fundamental law in the area of social assistance, with the objective of harmonizing the “needs based minimum assistance schemes” legislation and practice across the nine Austrianprovinces. On 13 March 2019, the Federal Government adopted a draft Basic Law on Social Assistance as well as changes to the Integration Act. According to the draft law, recognized refugees are entitled to full social aid benefits on equal footing with Austrian citizens if they can demonstrate sufficient German language skills. On the other hand, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are onlyentitled to core benefits of social aid, reduced and limited to the level of the basic care and welfare support, with no possibility to receive full social aid.
TODO VfGH, Länder-abhängig
59. The team is concerned that limiting access in this manner may not meet the international human rights law criteria according to which any differential treatment on the basis of legal status should be in accordance with the law, pursue a legitimate aim and remain proportionate to the aim pursued. Therefore, it encouragesthe Government to ensure that any changes in access to schemes are based on objective and reasonable criteria.
h. Oversightand civic space
60. The State should ensure that migration responses are monitored by independent public bodies, as well as allow for external monitoring by civil society, to ensure transparency and accountability while protecting migrants’ confidentiality. BFA has an internal system in place for quality management concerning decisions on the protection extended to migrants in the context ofreturns, including a dedicated unit and focal points across BFA to ensure quality, provide support and further development. However,from the information received from State and non-State actors alike, it does not seem that this system includes monitoring the fulfilment of case officers’ duties without discrimination and withdue account for the human rights of migrants, including gender-responsiveness, adherence to the best interests of the child and adequate identification and assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations. Moreover, the results of the monitoring do not seem to be publicly available.
61. As a good practice, the “Volksanwaltschaft” (ombudsperson) is mandated to carry out independent monitoring, particularlyin pre-removal detention,and has made a number of recommendations to improve existing conditions, some of which have not been implemented. As part of its adhoc “observation of police operations”, the ombudsperson also monitors forced returns (including charter flights), albeit not systematically. The OHCHR team learned that the ombudsperson has not been involved in monitoring BFA interviews, assessments and decisions on asylum and returns and related processes.VMÖ hasbeen systematically monitoring charter flights for forced return and deportation but, as noted above, their independence and the quality of their human rights work has been called into question.
TODO Anzahl Beobachtungen, privatzeit, VMÖ
62. The OHCHR team is concerned that the space for civil society to conduct activities in the context of returnsis reducing, particularly when it concernsmonitoring. For example, in a widely reported case, BFA sought prosecution for criminal libel against the head of the asylum department of a civil society organization, Diakonie, for expressing views on the high percentage of negative decisions on asylum adopted by BFA that were quashed by the Federal Administrative Court. Although the public prosecutor has since dropped the case, this situation has had a chilling effect on civil society organizations advocating for the human rights of migrants. In another widely reported case, in 2018, the Ministry of Interior sent out an email to all province police headquarters stating that communication with specific media outlets alleged not to report favourably should be kept to “the minimum legally possible” without “offering them any benefits such as exclusive access.” The email also recommended proactively making public sex crimes and sharing ith the media a suspect’s nationality and residency or asylum-seeking status. The Ministry of Interior has since stated the email was only a suggestion and “not an obligation or directive” for press officers and that it was not ordered directly by the Minister.
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63. Other concerns raised by civil society actors include reported efforts to move reception and pre-removal detention centres to hard-to-reach places outside cities, which would reduce their ability to continue to regularly monitor and provide assistance and counselling; the frequency of amendments to the legalframework for migrants; and the plannedestablishment of a “Federal Agency for the Provision of Care and Support”, which would significantly diminishthe roleof civil society organizations in asylum and returns processes.
i.Data collection and disaggregation
64. States should regularly collect, analyse, and publish available disaggregated statistical data and trends concerning the human rights situation of migrants, including in the context of returns, while protecting personal data and theright to privacy. Anonymized disaggregated data is critical to obtain an accurate account of the different experiences, situations and needs of migrant women, girls, men, boys and those who identify with other identities. It helps inform the public and counter misconceptions, harmful stereotypes and xenophobia. It can also contribute to effective age and gender-responsive laws, policies and practices that are in line with human rights law. It further allows for the identification, monitoringand analysis of protection gaps, including for migrants in an irregular situation, and potentially discriminatory practices or targeting.
TODO Was Kickl nicht weiß, Antrag Leichtfried Verfassungsänderung
65. While the Government systematically collects disaggregated data on migrants who have received asylum or subsidiary/humanitarian protection, the OHCHR team noted that statistical information pertaining to the situation of migrants in the context of returns was insufficient. It was often not public or accessible to other Government entities and/orcivil society, not regularly collected and inconsistent in methodology, and lacked adequate disaggregation, in particular by sex, age, migratoryand legalstatus, disability, country of origin, and other relevant variables.
TODO – Steffi Anfrage
66. There is, for example, insufficient disaggregated statistical informationon:
- voluntary returns broken down by legal status(including by those who have an obligation to return and those who do not), whether assistance was provided, and theentity assisting the return;
- voluntary returns out of pre-removal detention broken down by length of detention;
- forced returns and deportations, including by ground and destination and entity carrying out the return;
- revocations of protection or tolerated stay and subsequent return;
- appeals ofBFA return decisions and their outcomes(broken down by court, including appeals of court of first instance, and by legal representation, e.g. VMÖ, Diakonie or NGO/private);
- pre-removal detention decisions that were appealed and their outcome out of the total number of pre-removal detention decisions (also broken down by actual subsequent return and legal representation, e.g. VMÖ, Diakonie or NGO/private); and
- individuals in pre-removal detention over time/annually (also broken down by family, for longer than three days, longer than one month, 4 months, and 6 months)
67. The above mentioned parliamentary inquiry to the Minister of the Interior highlighted serious gaps in the regular collection and public availability of disaggregated, anonymized statistical information concerning migrants, particularly in the context of pre-removal detention and returns. In the response to the inquiry, the Minister noted that the data collected by BFA was primarily used for internal purposes, and that certain statistical characteristics, such as gender and age, were stored in the raw data, but not immediately available in standardized reporting.
Vergleich Statistik über jahre
68. Other sources also indicate that the lack of access to an overall systematic overview of publicly available disaggregated data on returns has been an issue for the last three years. Moreover, several public officials observed a lack of coordination among the different ministries, the national statistical office,and between federal and provincial levels on data collection, methodologies, and sharing of anonymized statistical information related to migrants and returns. Where information is collected or recorded inconsistently, this affects the ability to conduct comprehensive data disaggregation, which can lead todistortions and other data quality issues.
TODO Stats-Austria >BKA
4. Conclusionsand recommendations
69. OHCHR welcomes the range of human rights protections available for migrants in Austrian law in the context of returns, while noting they could be used more consistently. Some legal provisions and practices are not fully aligned with international human rights laws and standards and need to be brought in compliance. The authorities should carefully assess the impact of new legal amendments to avoid further erosion of human rights protections for migrants, in particular those in situations of vulnerability.
70. While noting the longstanding cooperation on migration issues between a vibrant, diverse and broad range of civil society actors and the Government, OHCHR is concerned the space for collaboration is shrinking, and encourages the Government to promote and facilitate civil society engagement
71. OHCHR further encourages a Government-wide approach to migration governance, in which all departments and offices collaboratively contribute to a human rights-based and gender-responsive approach to national migration laws, policies and practices.
72. OHCHR proposes the following recommendations to assist the Governmentof Austria to fully uphold the human rights of migrants within its policy framework, and is ready to provide technical assistance should the authorities request it:
Identification of migrants in situations of vulnerability
- Establish, in collaboration with a broad range of civil society organizations, a human rights, gender-and age-responsive vulnerability assessment mechanism within asylum and
returns processes to ensure appropriate referral, assistance, support procedures and effective protection of migrants’ human rights.
Training and capacity
- Develop, in collaboration with relevant international organizations and a broad range of civil society organizations, mandatory guidelines and pre-deployment training for BFA immigration officers and police/guards on their human rights obligations, age and gender-responsiveness and the identification of migrants in situations of vulnerability.
- Develop guidelines and training materials for the judiciary on cases concerning migrants in situations of vulnerability, in collaboration withrelevant international organizations and a broad range of civil society actors.
- Ensurethat trained staff are available at all sites to provide timely identification of and support to migrants who have experienced trauma and sexual and gender-based violence.
Access to information and legal aid
- Ensuresystematic, free, independent, confidential and competent legal and other assistance to migrants, including accessible information and interpretation services.
Due process and the right to an effective remedy
- Guarantee automatic suspensive effect for cases on appeal as a component of the right to an effective remedy.
- Ensurethe right to be heard inall migration-related cases, including those challenging immigration detention.
- Establish independent internal and external oversight mechanisms to ensure regular review of the work of BFA officersand other relevant actors in the context of asylum and returns, and allow the publication of monitoring reports.
- Engagein good faith with United Nationstreaty bodies and other human rights mechanisms, including with a view to implementing interim measuresthey issue,in line with Austria’sinternational obligations.
- Ensurethatdetention isa measure of last resort, for the shortest possible period and only if considered reasonable, necessary and proportional.
- Prioritize the use of non-custodial, human rights-based alternatives to detention.
- Ensurethat an individualized assessmentof a migrant’s situation of vulnerabilityis taken into account in determining the necessity and proportionality of pre-removal detention.
Right to family life andthebest interests of the child
- Develop specific guidance on thedetermination ofthe best interests of the child, in accordance with a multidisciplinary procedure, and conduct relevant training.
- Introducethe notion of ‘best interest of the child’ and the criteria defining it in the Asylum law and in the Aliens Law.
- Ensure that a guardianis appointed from the moment an unaccompanied or separated child is identified.
- Amend laws and practices to ensure that children under 18 years cannot be detained for immigration purposes, including if they are with their parents or legal guardian.
- Ensure the rights to liberty and family life of children by finding alternatives to detention for the whole family.
Access to services
- Ensure respect for the principle of non-discrimination in the preparation of the fundamental lawin the area of social assistance and that migrants have access to economic and social rightsregardless of their status.
- Ensure that any differential treatment in accessing services between citizens and non-citizens or between different groups of non-citizens is non-discriminatory, and servesa legitimate objective, is proportionate andreasonable.
Oversight and civic space
- Ensureindependent internal monitoring of BFA cases,in particular those concerning migrants in vulnerable situations,in line with international human rights standards.
- Support an enabling environment for a broad range of civil society actors, independent of Government contracting, to monitor and advise on the human rights of migrants, including in the context of forced and voluntary returns and in pre-removal detention centres.
- Condemn all instances of violence, intimidation or reprisals against civil society actors and the media stemming for their position or work in relation to migrants.
- Ensurethat the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and legislative frameworks, locations of reception and pre-removal detention facilities, and establishment of new public institutions aretransparent and participatory, and do notlead to restrictions oncivil society space and activities.
Data collection and disaggregation
- Ensureregular, publicly available collection and analysis of disaggregated quantitative and qualitative data and information regarding migrantswhile protecting personal data and the right to privacy.
- Strengthen coordination on data collection and methodologies between the Ministry of Interior and other governmental bodies on migrants in the context of returns, and collaborateclosely with the national statisticsoffice, the ombudsperson, parliament, civil society, and United Nations entities.