Vienna, 12 May 2016 Press release

Integration Minister Kurz: Rapid integration of persons entitled to asylum is essential

On 12 May, Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz took part in a symposium on the topic of integration organised by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Verbände (working group of Catholic associations).

Immigration is positive for a country "if those who come, make a contribution”, Minister for Integration and Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz underlined at a symposium held by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Verbände (AKV, working group of Catholic associations). “Neither right-wing rabble-rousing nor left-wing reverie will get us anywhere”, the Minister for Integration highlighted. People must not be judged by the colour of their skin, their background or religion, but rather whether they are willing to make a contribution to and in a country. It is thus essential to integrate those who are allowed to stay in Austria in the best possible manner.

Other participants in the symposium and the discussions included Johannes Röser (editor in chief of the weekly paper "Christ in der Gegenwart”, the Salzburg theologist Dietmar Winkler, Carla Amina Baghajati (spokesperson of the Islamic community in Austria) and the President of the AKV Helmut Kukacka.

Rapid integration of persons entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection

The root causes for and the consequences of the current flows of refugees to Europe were addressed in the context of the symposium. Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz pointed out that the Integration Ministry had at a very early point in time already warned that the burden imposed on Austria might prove too excessive for the country to cope with and therefore developed a precise plan for the rapid integration of refugees. The 50 Action Points Plan for Integration was prepared in collaboration with the Expert Council for Integration. Alongside rapid acquisition of German language skills and participation in the labour market, this plan also provides for attendance of a Values and Orientation Course in which refugees and immigrants are given an overview of life in Austria. This includes important information about everyday life, including the Austrian school system, and also about rules, regulations, laws and fundamental values such as equality of men and women. In 2015, a total of 90,000 applications for asylum were filed in Austria. Compared with other countries, Austria had taken in about three times as many asylum seekers as the USA and Canada together. The President of the AKV, Helmut Kukacka, stressed that Austria has thus acted with great humanity during the refugee crisis while he issued a warning stating that no country is able to take in an unlimited number of refugees. He underlined that is was important that everybody who needs protection be granted protection, but asylum seekers should not focus on the economically most attractive country.

Islam of a European notion

Another topic addressed at the symposium was the persecution of oriental Christians in the Arab-speaking region. In his statement, the Salzburg theologian Dietmar Winkler pointed out that oriental Christians were also needed on the ground as they held a bridge function in the region. Many Muslims wanted the Christians to stay in their home countries. According to Carla Amina Baghajati, spokesperson of the Islamic Community in Austria, there is no contradiction between Islam, democracy and human rights. She pointed out that Islam was a religion which enabled people to feel Muslim and European at the same time and underlined that Muslims supported democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

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