Press release - 167(2010)
Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Austria
Strasbourg, 02.03.2010 - The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on Austria which deals with racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in this country. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks, said that while there has been progress in certain areas, the prevalence of racist discourse, the disadvantaged position of non Austrian children in education and the lack of a comprehensive integration policy remain sources of concern.
As regards positive developments, Austrian anti-discrimination legislation has been strengthened thanks to the adoption of Equal Treatment Acts in each of the nine Länder. Some of these offer broader protection against discrimination than at federal level and provide access to newly created or reinforced specialised bodies.
The authorities have pursued their efforts to provide the police and the judiciary with training on criminal legislation against racism and xenophobia. Steps have been taken to recruit police officers with an immigrant background, which is encouraging.
Measures have been adopted at local level to facilitate immigrants’ integration. German language support has been provided to children with an immigrant background. In addition, access to employment has been facilitated for persons arriving in Austria for the purpose of family reunification.
At the same time, racism in public discourse remains a worrying issue, in the absence of an adequate response by the authorities. Far-right political parties have openly exploited prejudice against minorities, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, Jews and Muslims and their statements have not been always condemned by mainstream political parties in a sufficiently strong manner. In addition, some media have contributed to creating an atmosphere of hostility against members of minority groups and asylum seekers. At present, Austria does not have an effective press self-regulatory body, the Press Council having stopped functioning since 2002.
Non-Austrian children still find themselves in a disadvantaged position in the education system and their over-representation in schools for pupils with special needs is a problem. There continue to be major disparities between citizens and non-citizens in the field of labour. Discriminatory practices in the field of housing and employment, for example advertisements, are still common and have not been adequately addressed.
There is still no comprehensive integration policy at federal level and the obligation to fulfil an “integration contract” in order to obtain a residence permit is too coercive and does not include enough incentives to promote integration. Austria’s family reunification policy is on the whole too restrictive and the quota system for family reunification inappropriate.
Although it is well-developed, Austrian legislation in the field of discrimination remains highly fragmented and complex; this undermines its effectiveness. The Commission for Equal Treatment and the Ombudspersons for Equal Treatment lack the structural independence required to command full public confidence. The same is true for the Bureau for Internal Affairs which deals, among other matters, with allegations of ill-treatment by the police.
In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:
- Provide the Ombudspersons for Equal Treatment with sufficient financial and human resources, the guarantees that make them fully independent and the power to apply to the courts;
- Promote, without encroaching on the principle of media independence, the reestablishment of a regulatory mechanism for the press that would ensure respect of ethical standards;
- Improve the response to allegations of racist or racially discriminatory behaviour by the police, by measures such as establishing an independent body with powers to investigate individual complaints.
The report, including government observations, is available
ECRI is an independent human rights body of the Council of Europe which monitors problems of racism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states.
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