migration  Well-established prejudices against immigrants

Well-established prejudices against immigrants

“Immigrants are lazy, they don’t integrate and they live off welfare. To cap it all they have far too many children.” Such statements and ones like them are very well established in the Austrian debate on immigration. It’s about time someone checked out some facts about these prejudices.”

There have never been as many foreigners in Austria as there are now

The “good old days” were just that: good, old only relative to how we see them today - and multicultural. The Habsburg monarchy was a multi-ethnic state and home for millions of people of different nationalities. In the capital Vienna alone “foreigners” made up around 43% of the population, at the turn of the century around 30 per cent. In comparison, now 22.3 per cent of Viennese people are “foreigners”, so clearly fewer than in the “good old days”.  Currently immigration to Austria is around 12 people per 1000 inhabitants and that is on average from 2000 to 2010. Austria also had considerably more refugees or exiles in the past: directly after the second world war there were 1.6 million refugees or displaced people in Austria. In 2011 about 14,400 asylum seekers came to Austria. Altogether there are around 20,000 living on basic provisions. We are therefore talking about a refugee figure of about one two per cent from 1945 onwards.

Trillions of foreigners are naturalized every year

No, because since 2005 naturalization numbers have gone down by over 80 per cent as a result of stricter and stricter naturalization laws. A larger and larger percentage of our population is being excluded from voting and therefore from the chance to participate in the process owing to intensified naturalization regulations. At the same time 10,000 babies a year are born here as “foreigners”, who grow up here and don’t know any other home. In this way antiquated laws are constantly producing domestic “foreigners”. The resident population no longer identifies with the voting population, which constitutes a real problem in democratically political terms.  

Asylum seekers have no reason to come to Austria.

There is homogeneous asylum system in the EU. The asylum rulings of individual EU countries are often extremely different: just under 70 per cent people who flee Afghanistan obtain asylum in Austria. In Greece this is only 10 per cent. Moreover, some EU countries do not offer asylum seekers any satisfactory protection; they get no state help for example, but must live on the street and beg or are confined in custody for no reason. Many asylum seekers therefore feel forced to switch to other countries. This carries the danger of being exploited by people smugglers or of being deported once more from their new destination countries.

Foreigners are taking jobs from us Austrians

Wrong. Work is not a commodity which can be allocated. Rather, companies need the freedom to be able to choose whichever employees staff possess the necessary qualifications and are willing to put their manpower at the company’s disposal. Otherwise companies in Austria would not be able to manufacture competitively. It stands to reason that the companies choose the most competent employees they can find. So if anybody complains that foreigners are taking jobs from Austrians he or she is at the same time admitting that lots of foreigners are not above doing some jobs and are better at them than some Austrians.

Austria was built single-handedly by Austrians

Yes, our grandparents’ generation achieved a lot after the war. They did not however single-handedly build the country: after the second world war Austria was one of the largest recipients of reconstruction aid. In line with the Marshall Plan the country was supported with massive aid supplies from the United States to the tune of several hundred million dollars. From the sixties onwards migrant workers were hired who, owing to their labour on building sites, in industry and in commerce, have contributed hugely to Austria’s economic upturn, and so to our prosperity today.

Asylum seekers just lie around all day doing nothing

It is almost impossible for asylum seekers to obtain a work permit. They are condemned by law to inactivity. Many asylum seekers would love to work while their asylum procedures are ongoing, to fend for themselves and to be able to escape boredom and inactivity. But whether they are teachers, doctors or unskilled workers: for asylum seekers it is very difficult to get a work permit in Austria in order to survive.

Foreigners have lots of children

On average Austrians have 1.32 children, women of foreign birth 1.87 children. This is however the case for both groups: on average neither one nor the other has two children. Significant differences in the number of children are due to where exactly foreign women come from. One interesting trend is that immigrants who have already been naturalized have clearly fewer children than immigrants who have not been naturalized.

Foreigners just cost the state money

This myth has got more to do with fear than facts. One statistic from the Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs documents the exact opposite. It compared how much was paid into the welfare system and much was taken out again. This clearly showed that people of foreign nationality are, to put it crudely, “good business” for Austria! People from EU states and other countries are “net contributors” to the contribution-funded welfare systems (pension, health, accident and unemployment insurance and family burdens equalization fund), while nationals benefit from it disproportionately. This is reflected in the covering of social benefits: according to the the federal ministry “the proportion of immigrants on the receiving end is disproportionately small for their share of the population”.

Europeans integrate more easily

More than half of all immigrants currently come from the EU. These people, because they are EU citizens, appear to have no knowledge of the German language at all. Many of them do not learn German because they do not want to stay permanently or they find jobs where a different foreign language, for example English, is spoken. To quote an example here, 90 per cent of new immigrants who do not come from the EU voluntarily attended integration courses in Vienna in 2011.

Foreign children have problems with the German language

According to an EU commission presented PISA study on reading difficulties, young people in Austria are in sixteenth place for reading with 27.5 per cent – in sixteenth place in the PISA reading test, Austria is in the lower half of the 30 countries compiled. An appraisal of the language level showed that a quarter of five year olds have problems with German and would need special support. Austrian children with German as a native language are also counted in this: ten per cent of them need educational support. But what is crucial here is that language problems depend not on one’s nationality but on one’s social environment. Among children who do not have German as a native language educational support is higher at 59 per cent, so the very pleasing message in this that 41 per cent of multi-lingual children are already speaking good German at five years old.

Foreigners commit more crime than Austrians

Wrong. The probability of someone committing a crime is not dependent on their nationality but on factors such as sex, age and prosperity. Men commit more crime than women, people aged between 15 and 30 commit more crime than older people, poor more than rich. The latter also has something to do with wealthier people take up types of crime that are not necessarily apprehended (e.g. tax evasion). There are indeed statistics that attest that foreigners have a higher rate of crime, and if one subtracts the influences given above (e.g. the fact that the average foreigner is younger than the average Austrian), it appears that there is a lower rate of crime than Austrians. Moreover, most offences committed by foreigners are ones that Austrians simply cannot commit, namely violations of aliens legislation or legal provisions for asylum seekers (e.g not being permitted to leave the town in which they are confined).

Young immigrants commit more crime than young Austrians

The current safety report shows a different picture: the percentage of Austrian juveniles or young adults who were convicted of an offence in 2011 is clearly higher than among young foreigners (23.9 per cent of nationals, 16.9 per cent of foreigners).

According to official crime statistics, foreigners and asylum seekers clearly commit more crime than Austrians – in the host country

Wrong. Violations of the law which Austrians simply could not commit are included in official crime statistics, for instance violations of asylum law which most notably means an illegal stay in Austria. If we do not include this alleged “crime”, as only foreigners are able to commit it, a completely different picture emerges – with regard to robbery, burglary, murder and suchlike, Austrians have the highest rates of crime!