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Saturday, January 21, 2017

6k+ Unofficial Refugees in Vienna get Social Benefits - Cannot be Deported

 © Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

More than 2,000 migrants living in the Austrian capital, Vienna, cannot be deported despite falling short of being granted asylum - mainly due to the lack of proper ID documents - while still receiving monthly payments, an Austrian daily has reported.

Out of 20,000 migrants that receive social benefits in Vienna, only about two thirds either have been granted asylum or have their asylum requests under consideration, the Austrian Kurier has uncovered. The rest are residing in the Austrian capital on the so called "tolerated stay" scheme.

As of November last year, 6,165 migrants were living in Vienna and are receiving social benefits because they cannot be deported from Austria, despite not being granted official refugee status, the daily reports, describing the situation as “the sucking out effect.”

The figure, according to the publication, has been confirmed by the Interior Ministry. Authorities, however, refused to officially comment on the matter.

Some of these migrants, the publication explains, cannot be deported because an individual is either without proper ID documents or the country of origin refused to accept them. Others cannot be sent back as it would violate the 1951 Refugee Convention that sets out the responsibilities of nations that takes in refugees.

Out of that number, 2,674 individuals have already been rejected for failing to meet the country's asylum criteria. These persons mainly come from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, in addition to those from Somalia, Nigeria and Chechnya.

As things stand, these individuals have the option of applying for a passport at their country’s embassy and then departing Austria on their own free will. However, they have no right to work in Austria, and continue to receive financial support from the Austrian state. This measure should prevent migrants from working illegally, according to authorities.

The rest, 3,491 asylum seekers, have been granted so-called "subsidiary protection", but falls short of being granted official refugee status. Under this directive, migrants cannot be deported from Austria, even if they commit a crime, as Austrian authorities fear they might face death or torture if sent home.

To stay in Austria, they have to file paperwork each year for their residence permits to be extended. However, in this instance, the government hands them basic social security payments and allows them to work in the country.

It is unclear, how many migrants, who cannot be deported from Vienna, committed any crimes, the daily reports. A local refugee policy coordinator, Peter Hacker, argued that the payout of social benefits lowers the migrant crime rate.

“Crime rate in Vienna effectively declines,” he told the Kurier daily, adding that “it is not a coincidence but a consequence of these strategic decisions.” He also said the government payments ensure that “no ghettos emerge” in Vienna, where people live without state support.

It is better to pay refugees easy money than to let them roam around city without any means of sustenance, he added.

Vienna’s challenges are compounded, however, with authorities expressing concerns about the rising number of migrants streaming in from other regions. The reason being, that Vienna pays social benefits even to migrants who are registered in other parts of Austria.

“It is not optimal that the situation is heading towards such concentration [of migrants in Vienna], the Austrian Interior Ministry said, as cited by the Kurier daily. The ministry warns of a potential rise in the crime rate and says, and citing one example, said mass scuffles in refugee shelters could become more frequent.

Currently, 25 percent of all refugees that live in Austria and who are receiving social benefits are residing in Vienna, according to the Kurier. About two thirds of those granted asylum are men.

The standard social benefit paid out is between € 205 ($219) and € 365 ($ 390) per person monthly. This means the Austrian state is spending about € 1.76 million ($ 1.88 million) per month on those 6,165 migrants in question.

Austria, which has a population of about 8.7 million people, received more than 130,000 asylum claims from people coming from the Middle East and North Africa since the summer of 2015, and took in one of the largest numbers of refugees per capita alongside Sweden.