Immigration Control Without Integration
Policy: An Austrian Dilemma
On 23 January 1993 more than 300,000 people gathered in Vienna's Heldenplatz in Austria's largest demonstration since the enthusiastic welcome given to Hitler at the same ‘Square of Heroes’ on 15 March 1938. This time the demonstration was against xenophobia and racism and came as a response to an anti-immigrant petition launched by the right-wing Freedom Party and to the parallel Lichterketten (candle light marches) in Germany triggered by violence against asylum seekers. This event created expectations that Austria's coalition government might be ready to soften its harsh policy of legal discrimination against regular immigrants who were subjected to an internal control regime designed for short-term guest-workers. It took more than four years until parliament passed, on 11 June 1997, a long-announced comprehensive reform of the asylum and immigration and laws under the motto ‘integration before new immigration’. However, the content of the legislation puts much more emphasis on stopping new immigration than on the legal and economic integration of those who have settled in Austria. The following account of the Austrian immigration control regime tries to explain the extraordinary difficulty Austrian society and its political system have had in coming to terms with the fact of permanent immigration.
Although, during the period covered by our project, Austria had one of the largest per capita immigration rates in Western Europe, it has rarely been included in comparative analyses of immigration policy. When it is mentioned, Austria is usually grouped together with Switzerland and Germany as an example of an immigration regime which started from recruitment of guest-workers, resulted in unintended permanent settlement but continues to restrict access to citizenship for most immigrants and their offspring. While this characterization is basically correct, there are