Austria: The Committee concerned about the increase of xenophobic attacks against ethnic and religious groups

Overview of 115th Session - Austria

The Human Rights Committee reviewed the fifth periodic report of Austria on 20 and 21 October 2015. The main topics of concern were the rights of asylum seekers, women's rights, and the fight against extremist groups.

During the review, Committee members stressed the rights of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants noting that Austria is considered to be one of the most exposed European countries for asylum seekers and irregular migrants. Experts asked about the asylum procedures, the treatment of asylum seekers and the lack of access to legal counsel. The State delegation highlighted that the high number of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants is one of the most important challenges facing the Austrian government (in 2014, 28,000 asylum applications were received, and more than 60,000 have thus far been received in 2015). Nevertheless, they assured Committee members that Austria is trying to find a long-term solution to the situation.

Committee members also raised concerns about the amendment of the Islamic Law, which might pose problem in the public exercise of religion and potentially harm the freedom of religion and association. The delegation stressed that the new Islamic Law, which replaced the original 1912 law, will allow Muslims the right to exercise their religion publicly. With regard to foreign funds for religious communities, which are restricted, they highlighted that the rule applies to all religious communities.

The Committee members were worried about the phenomenon of radicalization and hate speech against ethnic and religious groups. Experts requested more information about measures undertaken to combat extremist groups. In response, the Austrian delegation highlighted steps they have taken to combat the phenomenon including the introduction of a new article in the Criminal Code, prohibiting incitement to violence and hate speech against ethnic religious groups.

Turning to women rights, the Committee members welcomed the 2015 amendment to the Criminal Code, which prohibits forced marriage. However, they raised concern regarding violence against women and the gap in gender equality. The State delegation highlighted progress achieved in regard to the protection of women including the National Action Plan 2014-2016 which provided a comprehensive framework to raise awareness and trainings. With regard to the representation of women in decision-making positions, a quota system has been put in place in favour of qualified women.

The Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year, concern:

  • Racial profiling and police misconduct
  • Ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty
  • Detention of asylum seekers and refugees

The next (6th) periodic report of Austria should be submitted by 6 November 2021.

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