March 4. 2024. 8:00

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Amnesty International sounds alarm over human rights in Austria


Inadequate social benefits, racial profiling, inadequate protection of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, poor housing, increased pressure on media freedom, and failure to reach climate targets were listed as Austria’s human rights failures, Amnesty International wrote in its annual report.

Amnesty International published its annual human rights report on Tuesday, taking a snapshot of human rights in many countries.

“The direction we [Austria] take now will determine the next decades. If we continue to exclude people and deny them their human rights, this not only violates their rights but also undermines the cohesion of our society,” Annemarie Schlack, executive director of Amnesty International Austria, said in a press release.

In the report, Austria was particularly criticised for the illegal pushbacks at the border and for having asylum seekers temporarily housed in tents due to the lack of cooperation between the federal government and states.

The report also criticised Austria for dealing with unaccompanied children seeking asylum, as it was revealed in September that 5,140 such minors had disappeared within seven months.

“It is as if an entire small town has disappeared, and politics looks the other way,” said Schlack, calling on the Austrian government to sufficiently protect and support vulnerable young people.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry pointed to more than 40,000 people, including children, evading the asylum procedure in 2022 and travelling elsewhere, including their home countries, APA reported.

In its report, Amnesty International also noted a “worrying trend of some politicians in Austria increasingly failing to recognise and question human rights”, repeatedly using anti-human rights rhetoric to justify discriminatory measures.

On social assistance, Amnesty International also pointed to inadequate services in some states and criticised the lack of assistance services for homeless people, adding that these were not gender-specific but based on the needs and experiences of men.

The deterioration of press freedom in the country was also highlighted in the report, which pointed to the increased use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) and journalists having been prevented from observing protests.

Amnesty’s findings were shared by the Greens, currently in a coalition with the conservative ÖVP.

“It is enough to look at Lower Austria, for example. There too, as we know, are politicians in office who would prefer to throw human rights on the dung heap of history,” Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, the Greens’ spokesperson on human rights and migration, stressed, referring to the newly formed government of the ÖVP with the far-right FPÖ in Austria’s largest state.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)