Austria to keep deporting long-term residents, says minister

People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Maria Fekter has stressed Austria will continue to deport people who have been living in the country for many years.The right-winger said today (Thurs) she had no plans to change current regulations which allow immigration police to forcefully deport people whose residence permits are rejected.Fekter called for more “acceptance” of official decisions. In many cases, the people facing deportation have been in Austria for a number of years while their applications for asylum or residence are being processed. During this time, many have settled down and begun integrating into the community.The minister came under immense pressure last week when she claimed the deportation of eight-year-old twin sisters was “correct”.Dorentinya and Daniela Komani lived with their parents Vera and Augustin in Steyr, Upper Austria after fleeing from Kosovo to Austria six years ago. The children, who speak fluent German, received their First Communion in their local parish, while their father – a skilled electrical technician – found work as a gardener.Mum Vera suffered a nervous breakdown after they were informed that their most recent application for permanent residence in Austria had been denied. The woman is still receiving treatment at Vienna’s Otto Wagner Hospital. Doctors said the woman was at risk of committing suicide.Her daughters and husband came to Vienna earlier this month to spend their final days in the country in the facilities of NGO Purple Sheep, when dozens of armed officers from special police unit WEGA surrounded the building. The trio were transferred to a detention centre before being put on a flight to Kosovar capital Pristina.Their legal representative Karin Klaric revealed the girls did not even have a chance to grab their teddy bears when police entered their room as they were having breakfast. She also explained Augustin told his kids they were going on a holiday since he found it impossible to say the truth.Klaric promised she would not give up her fight for the family, while Fekter claimed today she is “hurt and burdened” by what has happened. The minister promised to ensure deportations would be carried out “in a more humane way” in the future. She explained the plan was to do without armed police and focus on assigning plain-clothes officers for similar cases.These announcements come after Fekter vehemently defended police actions in the Komani family’s matter. She said on Friday the deportation was “correct”, adding that authorities have handled “thousands more such cases.”Fekter angered left-wing rivals and NGOs by calling the operation of armed police procedure “constitutional and appropriate.”The minister said: “Immigration police have a difficult job. They must carry out certain measures if the family is expected to resist. (…) Someone who does not leave the country voluntarily after an application to stay has been rejected is informed that they will be deported.”Fekter today once more partly laid blame on the deported family for what happened last week. The ÖVP official claimed Austrian officials might have found ways to help the Komanis come back to Austria legally had they voluntarily left the country when their application for permanent stay was denied.The minister caused controversy some weeks ago by making clear she did not want “unskilled, illiterate farmers from mountain villages” to settle in Austria. The hardliner added asylum seekers’ “naïve fawn-like eyes […] will not push her from the path of constitution.”The interior minister also claimed integration was “mostly functioning well” in Austria, but added there were problems “with the language, professional qualifications and acceptance of our values”.She explained: “There are people in Austria who came here a long time ago but who still do not speak German. This causes big integration problems. Some women cannot go to the doctor or speak with teachers about their children, and cannot call for help in case of an emergency.”Asked by newspaper Kurier to make her opinions clear on where where Austria could improve, Fekter said: “We treat (immigrating) university professors in the same way we treat illiterate people. This is not clever in an economic regard.”Analysts said Fekter’s policies and her controversial remarks made last week are one of the main reasons why the ÖVP’s Vienna department only claimed 13.8 per cent in last Sunday’s city parliament election. The conservative party had the support of 18.8 per cent in the 2005 ballot.While Fekter has always caused outcry with her law and order policies, ÖVP Vienna chief Christine Marek supported similar political views on the campaign trail after having previously made a name for herself as a leading light of the ÖVP’s more liberal branch.Marek hit the headlines by calling for a ban of burqa head scarves. She also infuriated some ÖVP officials by suggesting the long-term unemployed should be forced into work.Meanwhile, figures presented by the interior ministry today show that the number of applications for asylum in Austria declined by 29 per cent year on year between January and August 2010 to 7,192.The ministry said 4,152 applicants had been put into detention awaiting deportation during the first eight months of this year, adding that 1,667 people had been deported in the period.