Learn German in Austria

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Jul 11 12:48:46 UTC 2002

>>From The Independent, 11 July 2002

                  Learn German or you're out, Austria tells immigrants

                  By Barbara Miller in Vienna

                  10 July 2002

                  Foreigners in Austria will be forced to learn German or
face deportation, under new legislation passed yesterday.  Non-EU citizens
who arrived in Austria after 1 January 1998 will be obliged to attend 100
hours of tuition in German language and culture. Those immigrants who can
prove they already have German language skills, and high-ranking managers
and other professionals who stay for less than two years can be excused.
Participants will be obliged to pay half of the estimated 350 (230) cost
of the course. The state's contribution drops to a quarter after 18 months
for foreigners who do not comply with the regulations, and to zero after
two years. After three years, anyone who has not completed the course will
be fined and after four years of non-compliance their residence permit
will be withdrawn.

                  The "integration contract" has been heavily criticised
by the opposition Social Democrats and Greens.During the parliamentary
debate on the Bill, the Greens' migration spokeswoman, Terezija Stoisits,
appealed for MPs to vote "no to the de-integration package, yes to
integration".  But the centre-right People's Party, which governs in a
coalition with the far right-wing Freedom Party, argued that the
government was merely addressing the concerns of ordinary Austrians.

                  Peter Westenthaler, the Freedom Party's parliamentary
leader, described the new law as "one of the most modern pieces of
legislation on foreigners in Europe".  In autumn 1999 there was an
international outcry when the Freedom Party ran an election campaign with
posters calling for an end to Verfremdung ("being swamped by foreigners").
Several months later, diplomatic sanctions were imposed on Austria by the
EU when the Freedom Party entered national government.

                  Now, the party is relishing the swing to the right in
recent European elections. The party's de facto leader, Joerg Haider, said
such election results were "the best confirmation" of far right-wing
ideas.  Recent ideas from within the Freedom Party include paying new
immigrants only as much social security benefits as they would receive in
their home country, and making asylum-seekers clean up dog faeces. With
general elections due next year, this is probably just a taste of what is
in store.

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