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UN Report Urges Austria to Improve Treatment of Asylum Seekers

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A recent report by the UN Committee Against Torture has called for immediate action to improve the treatment of asylum seekers in Austria, particularly those identified as victims of torture or with mental health conditions. The report, released in Geneva on Friday, criticized Austria for detaining individuals with mental health issues in “security cells” within deportation facilities, demanding an end to this practice.

The committee also expressed concern over the absence of a formal national mechanism to identify vulnerable asylum seekers, such as victims of torture, human trafficking, and gender-based violence. It urged Austria to prioritize these individuals in asylum procedures and ensure they receive adequate medical care.

Furthermore, the report highlighted poor conditions in deportation centers, including chronic understaffing leading to a lack of access to healthcare and mental health services. It criticized Austrian laws that allow for the detention and forced medical treatment of people with psychosocial or mental disabilities, including children, calling for an immediate review of these laws.

The committee also urged neighboring Liechtenstein to review its agreement on the transfer of offenders to the Austrian prison system, emphasizing the need for fundamental legal guarantees against torture and ill-treatment for prisoners from Liechtenstein.

Human rights organizations in Austria have repeatedly criticized the treatment of asylum seekers, especially minors. According to 2023 asylum statistics, over 95 percent of refugee children who applied for asylum in Austria last year have since disappeared, highlighting the failure of Austrian authorities to protect refugee minors. The situation is exacerbated by overcrowded reception centers and long waiting times for admission procedures.

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A fundamental reform of the system is needed to protect refugee children and ensure their rights to education and adequate care are upheld. Asylkoordination Österreich, an organization coordinating migrant aid groups in Austria, has called for immediate action to address these issues and provide better protection for refugee children.

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