asylum seekers

Apprenticed Asylum Seekers Can Stay

Asylum seekers may complete their apprenticeship even if they are threatened with deportation, the Nationalrat (National Assembly) agreed December 2, reversing the hard line of former coalition partner, the FPÖ. However, in the case of a negative asylum decision, applicants must still leave the country upon completing their final apprenticeship examination.

The FPÖ vehemently opposed the new regulation. Club boss and former interior minister Herbert Kickl predicted that apprentices would have to be kept in Austria afterwards because staying longer in the country may give them right to residency on other grounds – which may later lead to family reunification.

However SPÖ spokesman for social affairs Josef Muchitsch dismissed this argument, countering that refugees were only permitted to start an apprenticeship in jobs where there was a labor shortage, and no longer even that. Muchitsch would have preferred allowing trained apprentices to stay in the country afterwards,

The measure was also supported by the NEOS, with MP Stephanie Krisper criticizing the new law as too narrowly drawn, applying only to those who had already received a deportation notice, and only as a “suspension of deportation” (Duldung) – which Krisper considers a piece of “unworthy theater.”

Green goals more far-reaching

“Of course” the Greens hope for more, said MEP Alma Zadic. However, they endorsed the four-way compromise as a first step, describing it as a humane and economically sensible solution for the 800 asylum seekers concerned, who are already in apprenticeship.

ÖVP spokesman Karl Mahrer saw the measure as a “pragmatic and humane solution.” No new residency permits were created by the decision, he emphasized, countering the FPÖ claim it would increase Austria’s attractiveness for new refugees.

Last year, the previous ÖVP-FPÖ government cancelled the program allowing refugees to apprentice in Mangelberufe (professions short of workers or apprentices), and reinstatement seems unlikely.  The decision by the then SPÖ-led Social Ministry was a “mistake” in the first place, said ÖVP Secretary General Karl Nehammer in a parliamentary debate.

In any event, the change is minor, commented interim Interior Minister Wolfang Peschorn, and doesn’t alter the asylum law in any material way. Legally, it is a simple postponement of forced deportations, Peschorn said, appealing to the deputies to clarify the terms “asylum” and “migration” in the current legislative period.

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