Integration Act: integrating refugees in Austria
The project in brief
Implemented by: Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF/AIF; a fund of the Republic of Austria), public administration (authorities appropriate for residence purposes or benefits), private sector (language course providers).
Duration: The Integration Act became entered into force in June 2017. The Integration Act is valid and will be adapted if necessary.
The objective of this Federal Act is to quickly integrate persons who are legally resident in Austria (persons entitled to asylum, persons holding subsidiary protection status, third-country nationals) into Austrian society by systematically offering integration measures (the promotion of integration).
The Integration Act defines rights and obligations for persons entitled to asylum and subsidiary protection and third-country nationals with legal residence - by means of the obligation to actively participate in the integration process (obligation to integrate).With the Integration Act, Austria provides clear rules to ensure social cohesion and social peace. The pursued goal of successful integration is for the benefit of the entire society. The Integration Act follows the principle of "integration based on merit". The essential factors are as follows: knowledge of the German language (official language in Austria), economic self-sufficiency as well as respect for Austrian and European laws and values.
The Integration Act sets the central framework for the successful integration of persons who settle in Austria on a long-term basis: Clear rules are needed for social cohesion and social peace.
The law should encourage migrants and refugees to learn German faster and better, and thus enable them to be self-dependent in the host country.
The Integration Act also contributes to quality assurance in the area of German courses and examinations: German courses provided for by law must fulfil uniform criteria throughout Austria.
With the amendment of the Integration Act in June 2019, the integration obligations were brought into line with the Fundamental Law on Social Assistance in the sense of a coordinated nationwide system.
- Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF)
- Authorities in the federal states
Challenges and how they were overcome
In 2015/16, Austria was affected by a large refugee movement. While Austria has a population of 8,8 Mio inhabitants, some 1 Mio passed through Austria in 2015 and 100.000 asked for Asylum. Figures were at lower, however a still significant level, in the following years. All in all, Austria has offered asylum or subsidiary protection to some 108.000 persons in past years – most of them without knowledge of the national language or customs. Through the high number of volunteers, a set of integration measures for this target group was quickly established. In order to secure the long-term and structured integration of the refugees, it was necessary to turn the individual initiatives into a regulatory structure and to embed the integration measures institutionally throughout Austria.
How they were overcome
People granted asylum were given mandatory language training and courses on national standards and customs. The latter have access to the labour market and training activities for them to fit the market.
Children of refugees have to attend school. In order to facilitate their integration, they have to attend one year of Kindergarten, which is free of charge. Language training is then provided to pupils as necessary.
At the province level (Bundesländer), the arrival of refugees has changed legislation as well. As an example, aspects of refugee integration were included in the new regulations for the needs-based minimum income system (BMS), which was enacted specific to the respective provinces.
Results of the Good Practice
- The Integration Act also contributes to quality assurance in the area of German courses and examinations: German courses provided for by law must fulfil uniform criteria throughout Austria.
- In addition, the Integration Act and an Integration Agreement Regulation lay down the framework conditions for nationwide uniform integration examinations. This guarantees the highest safety and quality standards for these integration tests, which are also a prerequisite for receiving social assistance and for proof of language skills in the residence procedure.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
In order to ensure self-reliance of refugees, the acquisition of the necessary language skills is crucial. The courses take into account circumstances such as age, origin, gender, disability.
The legal measures enable on-site integration and increase acceptance in the host society via courses regarding the rule of law and principles / values of AT as host country.
The Integration Act is still valid. The project is therefore being continued.