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Zuzanna Ziomecka
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Refugees. Wikimedia Commons
this story is part of the 8-12 Jan 2018 Weekly Hindsight Read the hindsight

The new Austrian government mistakes “asylum” for “illegal immigration”

Christine Tragler recommended by Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria

With the use of exaggerated vocabulary, feebly concealed prejudice and manipulation techniques, the asylum policy of the ÖVP and the FPÖ conveys a clear message. Refugees are no longer welcome in Austria.

Austria Smoke signals

Why this story matters:


Words carry more than just information. No word stands alone but is always associated with a set of ideas. "Because language creates reality, you can manipulate people with words and impose on them your reinterpretation of the world," Der Standard editor, Irene Brickner, wrote commenting on the the new government's plans for the asylum system.

According to Brickner, in order to handle the delicate topic of asylum policy, the ÖVP and the FPÖ use exaggerated vocabulary and manipulation techniques, thus conveying the message that refugees are going to unlawfully exploit the Austrian asylum system.

"In the government’s strategy, the idea of an asylum, defined in the national Constitution as the obligation to protect the persecuted, is linked to 'illegal migration' to a degree previously unknown at a governmental level. It often comes close to equating," Brickner argued.

The title of a short summary included in the program carelessly connects the notions of "asylum as a temporary protection" with the necessity to “stop illegal immigration". And further it reads: "There can be no space for illegal immigration, which usually results from the abuse of the asylum right". Before we know it, refugees are put in the same box with the term "illegality".

"Such a rhetoric fuels the already heated mistrust of the refugee-rejecting majority of Austrians. This will make it easier for the turquoise-blue government to implement harsh measures against asylum seekers," the author elaborated.

These measures will include curbing benefits, resettling from private housing to supervised quarters, excluding the refugees' children from mainstream education until they speak sufficient German and many more. As FPÖ club chairman Johann Gudenus blatantly put it, "The invitation to illegal mass migration should be limited insofar as to show these migrants that Austria is not as comfortable to live in as everyone believes."

The former Federal President, Heinz Fischer, offered sharp criticism of the strategy and the language deployed by the new federal government. In a recent interview, he described the statement of the FPÖ politician as "inhuman".

"If a dignitary talks about anyone as if it was a second-class person, then it is more than alarming," claimed Fischer.

The former president also warned that if we continue down the same path, nationalism will increase and, undoubtedly, so will the level of aggression among the public.

Details from the story:

  • The turquoise-blue governmental program conveys a not-too-hidden message that refugees will misappropriate the Austrian asylum system.
  • One of its postulates is that refugees should no longer be accommodated in private homes but instead in supervised quarters.
  • The former Federal President, Heinz Fischer, openly criticized the new authorities in a recent interview.

weekly hindsight12-16 Mar 2018

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