Naturalisation figures drop further

Austria continues to hand out fewer citizenships to immigrants, figures presented by Statistik Austria today (Mon) show.The statistic agency announced 6,190 people became Austrian citizens last year, down by 22.5 per cent – and fewer than ever since the beginning of the 1970s.More than five in 10 new Austrians came to the country from Bosnia-Herzegovina (22.5 per cent), while 15 per cent have a Turkish background. Serbians are in third (13 per cent), followed by Croatians and people from Kosovo with seven per cent each.Figures also show that 38 per cent of people granted Austrian citizenship in 2010 were born in the country. Around 19 per cent of all cases were citizens who had lived in Austria for 10 years.Vienna registered the most dramatic year on year decline in naturalisations (minus 38.5 per cent) among Austria’s nine provinces followed by Lower Austria (minus 33.5 per cent). The number of naturalisations rose in just two provinces (Carinthia: up by 47.6 per cent and Vorarlberg: up by 9.9 per cent).These facts mean 2010 was the seventh time that the number of naturalisations decreased year on year.The number of requests for asylum in the country is in decline as well. More than 15,800 people asked for political asylum in Austria in 2009, but only 11,000 did so in 2010. Austria has never before registered so few asylum appeals.Nearly 22 per cent of refugees were granted asylum in the country in 2009. The Netherlands had the highest acceptance rate among the European Union’s (EU) 27 member states that year at 48.3 per cent ahead of Denmark with 47.9 per cent. Greece rejected 99 per cent of requests for political asylum.Non-government organisations (NGO), human rights groups and the Greens harshly criticised the federal coalition formed by the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) over its recent decision to implement rougher migration rules.SPÖ and ÖVP agreed people willing to settle in the country must speak a basic level of German upon arrival. Critics of the law claim people from impoverished, rural regions had no chance to sit language courses before moving to Austria due to their financial situation and the lack of such classes on offer where they live.At the same time, the government coalition presented a so-called Red White Red Card (Rot-Weiß-Rot Card) to help high-skilled foreigners from outside the EU find a job and settle in Austria. The new system will come into effect in July.The card – which will include a points system featuring aspects like age, education and professional experiences – may mean that an additional 8,000 people will come to Austria to work each year, according to SPÖ Social Issues and Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer.