1 April 2011 – The United Nations refugee agency voiced concern today about a proposed law in Austria that it said would further restrict the rights of asylum-seekers in the Central European nation.
The draft changes to the Austrian Asylum Act are set to be discussed in the country’s Parliament next week and could be adopted later this month, according to Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Of particular concern to us are provisions that would require all new asylum-seekers to stay in a reception centre for up to seven days, with possible detention for anyone who breaks this rule,” Mr. Mahecic told journalists in a briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.
“This would in our view constitute an unjustified restriction on freedom of movement. It could also prevent new asylum-seekers from being able to get freely chosen legal advice or support. Even a child awaiting the outcome of an asylum application and whose parents already reside legally in Austria would be affected by this new law. Families could be separated for up to a week.”
Mr. Mahecic said the detention of children was a particularly worrying aspect of the draft law.
“While children below the age of 14 are not affected by this, those between the ages of 14 and 18 may be subject to being detained.”
He called on Austrian parliamentarians to give priority to the best interests of the child when considering the bill, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
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