The Austrian government adopted a tough law on migrants, which many say violates the international principles on the protection of people fleeing war and persecution. In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Michael Genner, Chairman of human rights organization Asyl in Not called the new law “an attack on European values”.
The move is being criticized by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon as well as many human rights organizations.
“The law will make applications for asylum very difficult, if not impossible,” Genner told Radio Sputnik. “This will create difficulties for asylum seekers which are coming now from the most dangerous countries of the world. When they arrive to the Austrian border, that new law will allow the government to declare the state of emergency.”
The development comes a day after a member of the far-right group received widespread support during the first round of presidential elections. The new bill allows the government to declare a state of emergency over the refugee crisis and reject all asylum seekers, including those from war-torn countries such as Syria.
According to Genner, the new law has been in the works months. He also argued that the law violates basic European values and can result in the arrest of many innocent people.
“Austria’s new law is an attack on European principles,” Genner said. “We will continue to fight, and I’m sure that in one or two years that law will be cancelled by the Constitutional courts or by the European courts. But until that many people will be arrested and put in jail for nothing,” he added.
Responding to widespread criticism the country’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka noted that Austria was left with no choice, saying other European countries did not do anything to limit the number of refugees. The EU has been unable to come up with a common approach to the migrant crisis. This made the situation much worse.
“Our government believes that fences can stop refugee movements, but it [will be] defeated. Never in history have fences been able […] to prevent refugee movements,” Genner said.
Commenting on the question of whether other neighboring countries may follow in the footsteps of Austria, he mentioned such possibility exists, but it depends on the reaction of the local society.
“It depends on the mobilization of civil society and public opinion. But there is a danger that one country after another will follow.”
At first Austria and Germany favored the open-door policy, accepting all asylum seekers. But as the number of arrivals kept increasing, the opinion of the public and the politicians gradually shifted, especially after media reports of mass attacks by refugees during Christmas in the German city of Cologne.
Another issue that prompted the European Union to drastically change its stance on the migrant crisis are terrorist attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of more than 130 people. All of the assailants were immigrants who were born in Europe and became radicalized by Islamist ideology.