FECL 19 (October 1993):

In FECL No.18 we reported about the new Austrian Residency Act. Here is a follow up by our correspondent Eugene Sensenig.



As the residency Act (July 1, 1993) took effect, a large number of "hardship" cases were documented. Any non-nationals who unwhittingly applied for welfare benefits were in many cases arrested and threatened with deportation. In cases in which immigrants' visas had run out, the individual applicants where forced to leave the country and apply in their country of origin, even if government officials were responsible for the delay. The city of Vienna and the Province of Tyrol even threatened to deport minors who were technically illegal aliens because their parents had neglected to include them in their passports after the childern were born. The case of impending deportation of a seven year old Turkish girl brought this policy into the media limelight. The government was again and again forced to grant stays of deportation, the exception became the rule.

What seemed at first to be evolving into a major social policy scandal has, however, already blown over. Between the middle of August and the beginning of September leading members of the Social Democrat (SPÍ)/Christian Democrat (ÍVP) government coalition came out for a reform of the new Residency Act on humanitarian and constitutional grounds. Using the supposed threat of an upcoming wave of Eastern European mass migration the Chancellor (SPÍ), Vice-Chancellor (ÍVP), and the Ministers of the Interior and Social Affairs (SPÍ) were able to disciplin those critical members of the cabinet and party elites who at first demanded changing the law. The trade unions played a role in this process. The Minister of Social Affairs is also the federal president of the Unified Construction and Lumber Workers Trade Union (Gewerkschaft Bau/Holz).

Opposition remains limited. A quickly setup meeting of the provincial governors (Landeshauptmann) came out in favour of the new act. The Greens, the charity organisation of the Catholic Church (CARITAS) as well as the national anti-racist and anti-fascist coalition "SOS-Mitmensch" are the only institutionalised groups actively combating the new act. The Christian Democrat mayor of the city of Salzburg, Josef Dechant, surprisingly spoke out in support of his Vice-Mayor, Johann Padutsch (Greens), who is the only official now openly boycotting the legislation. A law case against Padutsch is still pending.

In conclusion, it now seems that the Minister of the Interior, Franz L÷schnak (SPÍ) is now waiting for media coverage to "calm down" so that the law canagain become effective. The goal of reducing Austria's non-national population remains official government doctrine.

Eugene Sensenig


Contact: Adjunct Professor Dr. Eugene Sensenig, (Research Group Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute/Karl Steinocher-Foundation for Labour History, Salzburg/Bolzano), Hofhaymerallee 21/31, A-5020 Salzburg; Tel: +43/662 881145, Fax. +43/662 87090019