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New law on foreigners in Austria

7 November 1997

A new law on foreigners in Austria is set to have far-reaching effects on the Roma community there, reported the September issue of Romano Centro. The law was ratified by the Austrian parliament recently and is due to come into force on January 1, 1998. This is the second amendment to the legal regime pertaining to foreigners in Austria in five years, the first being exclusionary legislation which went into effect in 1993. The Law on Aliens (January 1, 1993) and the Residence Law (July 1, 1993) had disastrous consequences for the many non-Citizen Roma in Austria. It rendered tenuous the legal status of long-term Roma residents in the country, and triggered many expulsions and instances of police brutality (See ERRC report, Divide and Deport: Roma and Sinti in Austria).

The announcement that a new law was being drafted spurred hope among immigrant Roma in Austria that their situation would be eased somewhat. This does not look likely to happen, however. Legal residence under the new law remains linked to a system of work permits, where work is envisioned as full-time and long-term. For the most part, Roma participate in the Austrian economy as part-time or seasonal workers, so the new law is unlikely to correct the discriminatory impact of the 1993 laws. Under the new law, a four month period of unemployment in the first year is grounds for expulsion, as is crossing the border illegally, working without a permit and failing to register with the police.

The new law does, how ever, contain some improvements. Under the 1993 system for example, anyone missing the deadline for application for a residence permit was forced to leave the country and apply from abroad. The new law abrogates this condition.

As under the 1993 law, there will be a quota on the number of residence permits available. The quota has been steadily decreasing since 1990. In 1995, this number was 17,000, in 1996, 16,140. Renate Erich of Romano Centro told the ERRC that the quota for 1997 has already been filled and is likely to be smaller still in 1998. Foreigners applying to join family members who are Austrian citizens fall under the quota. Children are only considered such up until the end of their fourteenth year.

One knowledgeable observer of the Austrian legal system commented that the law was amended because the old law was "ugly, they had to make it prettier" and went on to note that the new foreigners law is "confusing, which they [authorities] always like." The new law does not appear to have altered the underlying premise of foreigner legislation in Austria as it has existed since 1993.

In other news from Austria, the press reported on October 6 that police had detained a suspect in connection with a series of bombings, mainly of persons known to be involved in minority or liberal politics. One such bomb attack killed four Romani men in the town of Oberwart in 1995.

(Romano Centro)

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ERRC submission to the European Commission on Roma Inclusion in enlargement countries (May 2017)

25 May 2017

Written comments by the ERRC to the European Commission on enlargement component of the EU Roma Framework.


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Roma Rights 1 2017: Roma and Conflict: Understanding the Impact of War and Political Violence

16 May 2017

The impact of conflict on minority populations merits special attention, especially if those minorities have long been marginalized, viewed by the warring parties with a mixture of ambivalence and contempt, and deemed to be communities of little consequence in the peace-building processes that follow the conclusion of hostilities. This issue of Roma Rights Journal takes a look at the fate of Roma during and after conflicts.

Sometimes Roma have been the direct targets of murderous aggression or subject to reprisals. Then there have been the many times where individual Roma actively took a side, but too often the roles played by Roma, Travellers and other minorities were elided from the dominant national narratives that followed.

In many conflicts, caught between warring groups with no foreign power or military alliance to champion their claims, Roma found themselves displaced, despised and declaimed as bogus refugees, nomads and “mere” economic migrants in the aftermath.

As long as Europe’s largest ethnic minority is written out and rendered invisible in the histories of Europe’s wars and conflicts; and excluded from the politics of reconstruction and peace-making, the continent’s self-understanding will remain fatally flawed.

Editors: Marek Szilvasi, Kieran O’Reilly, Bernard Rorke

Roma Rights 1 2017 (PDF)

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Macron Election Call Out

5 May 2017

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