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Border Management and Migration Controls in Austria

Josipovic, Ivan; Reeger, Ursula

Between 2011 and 2018, legal changes in the realm of border management and migration controls in Austria extended policing capacities and activities targeting irregular migration, with measures arriving in tight conjunction with restrictions at all stages of the asylum procedure. Regarding pre-entry measures, cooperation on cross-border policing with neighbouring countries such as Hungary and Italy was intensified. At the border and with regard to irregular entrance, capacities for the establishment of identity have been increased through technical infrastructure and an operational interlocking of technically separate databases. With regard to persons seeking asylum, new duties for cooperation on the establishment of identity were created and options for data gathering were expanded through the inspection of geo-data from digital devices.

In September 2015, systematic border controls were re-installed at two major checkpoints towards Slovenia and Hungary. Schengen exemption provisions have been continually extended with reference to deficiencies at the EU’s external borders and “serious threats to public policy and internal security” in accordance to Art. 25 of the Schengen Borders Code (SBC). Against this background, the federal government also introduced a unilateral annual quota for the admission of persons to the asylum procedure in 2016. While a respective emergency decree has not been triggered as of early 2019, due to dropping numbers of asylum applications, the provision caused broad controversies as to whether it is constitutional or not. Under the same amendment act, time periods for conducting repulsions were increased from formerly 7 to 14 days. For persons admitted to the asylum procedure, new restrictions on movement or residence have been introduced. In particular, rejected asylum seekers can now be ordered to move to newly created return centres. The maximum detention period has been extended from formerly 6 to 18 months and new grounds for administrative apprehension, such as the refusal to cooperate on return, were introduced. Returns have been fostered through financial incentives, the expansion of the list of safe third countries and Joint Return Operations under FRONTEX.

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