New figures from Austria’s interior ministry show that the number of criminal complaints made against asylum seekers has risen sharply. That’s according to statistics released by Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), in response to a parliamentary question from Rupert Doppler (FPÖ).
According to the figures (which are raw data which have not yet been subject to quality control), Syrians are less likely to be in conflict with the law, while Afghans, Algerians, Moroccans and Nigerians are more likely to have a run-in with the police.
In Vienna, 730 criminal complaints were made against asylum seekers from Afghanistan last year. This year, there were 960 cases between January and the end of August. For asylum seekers from Algeria, criminal charges in the same period increased from 1,229 to 1,353, and for Nigerians the numbers went up from 1,168 to 1,280. The highest number of criminal complaints against asylum seekers was in the capital, Vienna, followed by Lower Austria. Burgenland had the lowest number.
However, the number of asylum seekers resident in Vienna has also risen sharply since the beginning of last year. At the end of August 2016, 5,618 Afghans, 683 Nigerians and 183 Algerians were living in the capital. In comparison, at the end of August 2015 there were 2,176 Afghans, 443 Nigerians and 64 Algerians. Criminal complaints made against asylum seekers have risen by 38.8 percent since the beginning of 2015.
Most of the offences committed by asylum seekers last year were crimes against property (42,010 cases), followed by charges of bodily harm (23,951).
Interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck confirmed that the ministry will be changing the law regarding asylum seekers who have committed crimes. “If an asylum seeker is convicted under criminal law, this can lead to them losing their asylum status or being denied asylum. The ministry is also looking to speed up the process of deportation for such cases.”
However, Christoph Riedl, an asylum expert for the Diakonie charity criticised the publication of the figures. “Just because the number of criminal charges has risen, this doesn’t automatically mean that asylum seekers are committing more crimes,” he said. “These are figures for criminal complaints and not per capita statistics,” he added. He said that the fact that more police have been deployed since last year means the number of convictions have gone up – but not necessarily the number of crimes.
He added that many of the criminal complaints are for relatively minor offences – such as carrying fake documents. “However, many refugees from Afghanistan have little choice about travelling with fake documents,” Riedl said. “In order to interpret these figures properly, we need to look at the statistics for the number of convictions,” he said. Complete crime statistics for 2016 will not be published until early 2017.
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