Austria is feeling the first effects of the asylum brake, as the end of visa-free travel for several countries has resulted in an evident decrease in Tunisia and Indian asylum seekers. The measure refers to Serbia introducing a visa regime for several countries, including India and Tunisia, due to EU pressure to halt illegal migration.
According to a press release by the Interior Ministry of Austria, in addition to the measure, deploying intensive police controls has been crucial for the asylum rates to drop,SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
“The end of visa-free entry for Indian and Tunisian citizens is an important measure to limit the scope for organized crime – the smuggling mafia – to act. Due to the sharp decline in the number of Tunisian and Indian asylum seekers, the asylum brake is beginning to have an effect,” Interior Minister, Gerhard Karner noted.
By taking action against the smuggler mafia, Austria is protecting human lives while also combating these illegalities. The same source reveals that during the period between the middle of December and the first few days of 2023, arrests related to the matter have dropped by 70 per cent.
Serbia introducing a visa regime for Indian and Tunisian citizens, who have reportedly been paying between €2,000 and €5,000 for smuggling from Serbia to Austria, has also been attributed as one of the reasons for the decrease in arrests. As the Minister pointed out, this measure introduced by the Serbian state has severely affected the business basis for the smuggling mafia.
The number of asylum applications filed by Indians and Tunisians to Austria surpassed 30,000 in 2022, with these rates reaching 1,000 in one week alone by the end of October.
However, the decline in illegal border crossings cannot be linked to the cold season, as in January the temperatures were unusually warm, while it is known that more people pass the borders during warmer months.
The most relevant route for Austria in 2022 remained the eastern Mediterranean route, which starts from Turkiye, Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, and Hungary, leading to Austria.
According to World Data Info, a total of 39,867 people applied for asylum in Austria throughout 2021, with 12,022 applications being accepted and 9,297 declined. The total acceptance rate stood at 56.4 per cent.
The main countries of origin for applicants were Syria (16,281), Afghanistan (,739), Morocco (1,920), Somalia (1,695), Pakistan (1,362), Iraq (1,052) and Bangladesh (1,027).
On the other hand, Trading Economics reveals that application rates in Austria fluctuated around the year, with the highest rates being recorded in October (17,980) and the lowest (3,105) in February. In total, in the period between January and October of 2022, 89,210 applications for asylum were filed in Austria.