Following an influx of asylum seekers and migrants last year that was on par with the European migrant crisis of 2015/16, Austrian Minister for Integration Susanne Raab (ÖVP), who also serves as the minister for women, family, and youth, has stated that the European Union’s asylum system is broken and called for its reform.
In an interview with the Austria Press Agency (APA), Minister Raab said that the 100,000 non-Ukrainian migrants who applied for asylum in Austria this year had pushed the country’s integration infrastructure to a breaking point, and called for, among other things, a common European asylum system, the news portal MeinBezirk reports.
“The increasing number of asylum seekers poses “a major challenge for integration structures, which are certainly at their limits,” Raab told the news agency, adding that the fact Austria, along with a few other western European countries, is forced to cope with the highest number of asylum seekers in the EU was “neither fair nor right.”
“It is not acceptable that refugees can choose their destination countries and that currently, Austria is the main burden,” the minister continued.
The European Union “finally needs a common asylum system with effective external border protection,” she emphasized, arguing that it unacceptable that asylum seekers and migrants can “choose their destination countries” which ends up placing a disproportionate burden on the Austrian state and its taxpayers.
The conservative, anti-globalist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which according to the latest opinion polls is in first place—and has more popular support than ÖVP and Green party combined—slammed Raab’s statements. Hannes Amesbauer, a member of the National Council, Austria’s lower house of parliament, derided Raab’s conclusions, saying: “One has to ask whether she is in the right place in her office.”
Amesbauer argued that since asylum offers “temporary protection,” those who are able to return to their homelands ought to.
The FPÖ’s position, which per polling data clearly resonates with the population, holds that massive numbers of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants cannot be integrated properly but should return to countries of origin.
Raab is hardly the first integration minister of a European Union member state who has argued that the bloc’s asylum system is broken. In 2021, Danish Migration and Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye, following a meeting with then Austrian Interior Miniuster Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), plainly said: “The European asylum system is broken,” before justifying Denmark’s strict migration policy.
“Without social cohesion there is no welfare state,”Tesfaye declared.
Later on in the interview, the integration minister argued that Austria’s veto against the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area—Europe’s 26 country free movement zone— was entirely justified, and insisted that it is illogical to expand an already broken system.
Raab also argued that “the demand for qualified workers cannot be met through asylum integration,” citing the low level of education and the “different set of values” of the vast majority of migrants and asylum seekers.
The ÖVP politician also shined a light on the need to protect women, citing that some 30 women were murdered in Austria. She said that women’s organizations, for years, have been calling for increased funds for violence protection work, and added that preventing violence against women can’t be sole task of the women’s ministry.
“It needs the judiciary, the police, and also the minister of social affairs,” the women’s minister said, adding that solidarity in the government on this issue is “stronger than ever.” “All budgets for protection against violence have increased,” she said, adding that she wants “women to be protected and the perpetrators to be punished.”