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Bulgaria/Austria: Austria's policy concerning Convention refugee claims of Romas from Bulgaria, and information concerning rejection rates (1999-2002)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 18 September 2002
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ39895.E
Reference 2
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bulgaria/Austria: Austria's policy concerning Convention refugee claims of Romas from Bulgaria, and information concerning rejection rates (1999-2002), 18 September 2002, ZZZ39895.E, available at: [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Information on Austria's policy during the period covered by this Response, specifically concerning Convention refugee claims of Romas from Bulgaria could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Information concerning rejection rates of Convention refugee claims of Romas from Bulgaria could also not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In October 2000, The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), which is an "international public interest law organization [that] monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse," stated that "[a]sylum in Europe has become a right often not available in practice, and much of the asylum system in Europe appears infected by racism in general, and anti-Romani sentiment in particular" (19 Oct. 2000).

In an August 2000 letter to the three human rights experts appointed by the European Court of Human Rights to assess the Austrian government's record on the rights of minorities, refugees, immigrants and the evolution of the Freedom Party of Austria, the ERRC stated that "Austria's obligation to provide protection to Roma fleeing persecution has been affected by the present anti-foreigner mood in Austria" (ERRC 28 Aug. 2000). However, in September 2000 the experts released a report which concluded that appropriate legal protection was available for minorities, refugees and immigrants in Austria (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 2000 23 Feb. 2001).

In its Annual Report 1997, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF-HR) stated that:

The Austrian government continued its restrictive policy, based on the Asylum Law of 1992. The law provides for the use of the concept of "safe third countries," ... Asylum seekers who appealed a negative decision were not allowed to await the result of the appeal in Austria. Many applicants were held in custody pending the processing of their applications and others were returned from the border without allowing them access to asylum procedures. Refugees and other people in need of protection were in danger of being deported - and indeed were deported - to third countries or even to their third countries of origin (15 July 1997).

In 2001, the IHF-HR stated that the "safe third country" principle remained in force (28 May 2002, 35).

In this regard, the US Department of State also indicated that this principle requires asylum seekers who enter the country illegally to depart and seek refugee status from outside the country (4 Mar. 2002).

[I]n 1997, the Government [of Austria] passed an amendment to the 1991 asylum law designed to bring some improvements to the "safe country" rule and the appellate procedure. ... A 1999 amendment ..., which authorizes the Ministry of Interior to draw up a "white list" of "safe third countries," drew sharp criticism ... on the grounds that it compromises the principle of individual investigation of claims. This principle was upheld in February 1999 and March 2000 [High Court] rulings (ibid.).

In late 2000, Human Rights Watch reported that "European governments such as Austria ... have proposed a major overhaul of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which they describe as outdated and ill-equipped to deal with modern day migration movements" (12 Dec. 2000).

Austrian criticisms of the Convention were also reported in late 2001 when Carinthia's Governor on Austria's refugee policy "proposed that the contents of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees be reconsidered, and that refugees should rather be taken care of in the surroundings of their original home than to allow them to enter Austria" (ibid., 36).

In October 2001, the BBC reported that:

Members of the European Parliament have given their approval to proposals for common laws on asylum and immigration.

Despite strong opposition ... the proposals passed would widen the definition of a refugee to include people who are persecuted by non-state agents.


The vote comes as the Austrian Government agreed on a controversial new "immigration contract" which will introduce fingerprinting for all asylum seekers.


EU countries are committed to forming a common asylum policy by 2004 (3 Oct. 2001).

According to ERRC, Austria is one of several European countries that applies an "extremely restrictive" interpretation of the Convention terms "refugee" and "persecution" (19 Oct. 2000). In Austria, "persecution only takes place when it is tolerated or encouraged by the state" (ibid.).

In its 2002 country report on Austria, the US Committee for Refugees stated that "[a]t the end of 2001, Austria hosted about 10,800 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection" (USCR 2002). According to 2001 statistics compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Austrian government granted Convention Refugee status in 4 per cent of all claims filed (7 June 2002). Bulgaria was not listed among the top five territories of origin of persons seeking asylum in Austria, nor was it listed among the top three territories of origin of asylum seekers with the highest approval rates (USCR 2002). Statistics on the number of Bulgarians, or Romas from Bulgaria, claiming refugee status in Austria could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


BBC. 3 October 2001. "Euro MPs Back Asylum Blueprint." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2002]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 4 March 2002. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 6 Sept. 2002]

_____. 23 February 2001. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 6 Sept. 2002]

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 19 October 2000. "Protecting Romani Refugees Around Europe: A Position Paper by the European Roma Rights Centre." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2002]

_____. 28 August 2000. "Letter Concerning Situation of Roma in Austria." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 12 December 2000. "Refugees: Western Europe Weakening Protections." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2002]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF-HR). 28 May 2002. Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America. [Accessed 5 Sept. 2002]

_____. 15 July 1997. Annual Report 1997. [Accessed 5 Sept. 2002]

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR). "2001 UNHCR Population Statistics (Provisional)." [Accessed 9 Sept. 2002]

U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). 2002. "Country Report: Austria." [Accessed 9 Sept. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

Amnesty International.

Embassy of the Republic of Austria. A request for information was forwarded to the Embassy on 29 August 2002, but no response was received.

Government of the Republic of Austria.

Radio Free Europe.


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