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Immigration initiative costs more than €800,000

Posted on August 30, 2011
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blankThe Austrian interior ministry has spent nearly 900,000 Euros on a controversial information campaign (pictured: ÖVP Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner).

The Austrian interior ministry has spent nearly 900,000 Euros on a controversial information campaign.

The ministry, which is headed by Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative People’s Party, announced yesterday (Thurs) it invested 884,000 Euros for its recent initiative promoting the introduction of the so-called Red White Red Card (RWR Card, Rot-Weiß-Rot Card). The card features a points system which the coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP hopes will help encouraging high-skilled foreigners to come to Austria. The introduction has been criticised by non-government organisations (NGOs) and the Green Party. They feared the new system – in force since last month – makes life for immigrants who already settled in Austria more difficult. The ministry’s information campaign was also criticised for providing essential facts about how the RWR Card system worked solely in German for several weeks.

Mikl-Leitner’s department was forced to reveal information on how much the initiative – which featured activity on the internet, posters, leaflets and newspaper ads – following a parliamentary request by Peter Westenthaler. The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) official accused the government of “deriding taxpayers in times where cuts are made.” The right-winger branded the RWR Card info initiative as a “personality campaign” by Mikl-Leitner and ÖVP Vienna deputy leader Sebastian Kurz, who was sworn in as Austria’s first state secretary for integration issues in April.

Officials at the interior ministry’s council of integration experts said they were “convinced” the new immigration model would “positively affect” developments in Austria. They claimed it would help people “making the first steps towards integration” since it focused on trying to bring those to the country who were desperately needed in the opinion of labour market experts. Especially researchers, managers and people skilled in professions who can start working in Austria instantly are targeted under the new law. At the same time, foreigners who already live in the alpine country must prove their ability to speak and understand basic German earlier than ever before. Those who fail to do so face being ordered to leave Austria, even if they have lived and worked in the European Union (EU) member country for years.

Key workers and scientists coming to Austria under the RWR Card scheme do not have to be capable of speaking German when they migrate. These groups of people get temporary visas to find work. However, members of their families must convince Austrian immigration authorities of their German skills instantly. The Federation of Austrian Industries (IV) – which has warned Austria is falling behind in international comparison due to a lack of top-skilled staff – welcomed the immigration law reform. The organisation claimed the decision to create the RWR Card increased the domestic economy’s chances to find the employees it was looking for. The card’s points system considers aspects such as people’s age, their German skills and job experiences.

Four per cent of people living in Austria had no job in June, according to Eurostat, the European Commission’s (EC) research and statistics organisation. None of the EU’s other 26 members had a lower unemployment rate. The Netherlands, which formerly did best in this regard, came second (4.1 per cent) ahead of Luxembourg (4.5 per cent). Spain (21 per cent) and the Baltic state of Lithuania (16.3 per cent) experienced the worst labour market difficulties in June 2011.

Almost 114,400 people came to Austria last year. At the same time, around 86,000 left the country. Most of those who stayed were Germans.

Statistik Austria recently said 3,420 foreigners became Austrian citizens in the first six months of this year. The agency explained this was an increase compared to the same time span of 2010 when only 2,764 naturalisations occurred. Most of those who received Austrian passports last year (6,190) and so far this year were immigrants from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The recent figures do not match previous naturalisation numbers. More than 45,000 foreigners became Austrian citizens in 2003.

19 Aug 2011

http://austrianindependent.com/news/Politics/2011-08-19/8765/Immigration_initiative_costs_more_than_%80800,000

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