Fekter ‘alarmed’ by soaring asylum seeker figures

People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Maria Fekter said she was “alarmed” by rising asylum application figures.The minister said today (Mon) around 800 foreigners have asked for asylum in Austria every month between January and July, adding that the number of monthly applications could reach 1,300 at the end of August.Fekter claimed this development was an “alarm signal”. The right-winger said she felt justified in her call for a law preventing asylum seekers from leaving Austria’s asylum centres for a certain period.The minister caused an outcry among left-wing opponents and NGOs last year when she suggested this period should last one month. Fekter reacted by calling for a one-week detention so authorities can check their age and health to determine whether they deserve asylum in Austria.Harald Vilimsky, general secretary of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), meanwhile launched a fresh call for a reintroduction of checks at Austria’s eastern border to slash crime figures.Greens MP Alev Korun – who previously called on Fekter to step down – said the interior minister was “unbearable” if she considered people seeking help as an “alarm signal”.Fekter infuriated the Greens and left-leaning representatives of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) earlier this month by stressing she did not want “unskilled, illiterate farmers from some mountain villages” to settle in Austria.The interior minister came under pressure last year for her attempts to set up a third centre for asylum seekers in Eberau, Burgenland, without informing anyone in the federal government and the provincial government.Burgenland SPÖ Governor Hans Niessl ordered a referendum being held in the province’s three southern districts Jennersdorf, Güssing and Oberwart on the issue. Around 95 per cent of participating residents voted no.There are currently two asylum seekers’ centres in Austria with one in the Upper Austrian town of Thalham and one in Traiskirchen Lower Austria.Around 15,000 people have applied for asylum in Austria last year. Eighty per cent of these applications were rejected.Meanwhile, a Karmasin poll found that 49 per cent of Austrians consider asylum seekers as generally “dishonest” people. A majority of 53 per cent told pollsters last month they agreed with the claim asylum seekers “are more criminal than other society groups”, according to political weekly profil.The magazine revealed that the Karmasin study also showed just one in four Austrians think asylum seekers “need protection”, while a meagre 16 per cent said they were “willing to integrate”.