Austrian Cabinet Adopts New Rules for Foreigners

Veronika Oleksyn, Comcast News, February 24, 2011

Austria’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved new immigration and asylum rules, amid criticism from the United Nations and others.

Some of the new measures will see asylum seekers confined to special centers for up to seven days on arrival while their refugee status is analyzed, while others require some immigrants to have German proficiency before entering the country.

In a statement, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern about the confinement aspects of the new measures, saying this was equal to “detention with the doors open,” since those who fail to comply face deportation.

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Interior Minister Maria Fekter, a hard-liner on issues relating to asylum, said the requirement will prevent people from disappearing while they await word on whether they’re allowed to stay in the country.

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Under the new rules, Cabinet members say a new “red-white-red” work permit will make it easier for more qualified foreigners from outside the European Union to fill gaps left by an aging labor force.

Social Affairs Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer said it will allow non-EU citizens to apply for the jobs Austria is having a problem filling. It is currently very difficult for non-EU foreigners to work in Austria legally because employers need to justify taking a non-EU citizen over locals and other EU citizens.

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