According to one broadcast, these “repeatedly use anti-human rights rhetoric to justify discriminatory measures” and thus contribute to a negative atmosphere towards human rights.
“This is particularly concerning as human rights are the cornerstone of a just society and must be protected and promoted at all times.” Amnesty asks politicians to make a clear commitment to human rights and “not use them as a political toy”.
Accommodation of refugees and pushbacks
“Austria is at a turning point in the fight for human rights,” says Annemarie Schlack, managing director of AI Austria. “The direction we take now will determine the decades to come. If we continue to marginalize people and deny them their human rights, it will not only violate their rights, but also undermine the cohesion of our society.”
In the area of asylum, the human rights organization criticizes, among other things, the temporary accommodation of asylum seekers in tents and illegal “pushbacks” at the border in its annual report published on Tuesday.
Unknown fate of thousands of children
In addition, a total of 11,629 refugee children disappeared in 2022. The NGO attributes this, among other things, to inadequate care for children and the lack of custody in federal institutions such as Traiskirchen, “which are definitely not suitable for children to stay permanently”.
Amnesty therefore demands the immediate appointment of legal guardians for all unaccompanied minors immediately upon their arrival in Austria – and not just upon admission to the asylum procedure.
There are also shortcomings when it comes to helping refugees from Ukraine
Amnesty welcomes the admission of refugees from Ukraine, but sees shortcomings: lack of access to social assistance, difficulties in accessing the labor market and lack of prospects for long-term residence in Austria remain unresolved. In addition, Amnesty, like other NGOs, calls for better financial and organizational support for individuals hosting the majority of Ukrainian refugees.
Press freedom under pressure
AI also sees press freedom under pressure. For example, at several protest events in Vienna, police prevented journalists from observing and reporting or failed to adequately protect them from attacks by protesters. When the activists’ protest camp “Lobau Stays” was emptied in April 2022, the executive set up a separate press zone and so far from the camp “that it was not possible to adequately monitor the events”.
Amnesty also points to SLAPP cases (strategic lawsuits against public participation) against journalists and concerns that “Ibizia detective” Julian Hessenthaler, sentenced to three and a half years in prison, actually received a fair trial. Furthermore, the Freedom of Information Act, announced years ago, is still suspended.
High hurdles for the homeless
A national housing strategy and comprehensive offerings to assist the homeless are also needed. “A lack of information, high bureaucratic hurdles, language barriers and legal regulations that led to the exclusion of Austrian and foreign citizens from entitlement to benefits also meant that many people did not have access to relevant support services.”
The Basic Law of Social Assistance considers AI inadequate. With its maximum rates, which are below the poverty risk line, it does not allow people to live with dignity.
Global report laments ‘Western double standards’
In Amnesty’s international report on the global state of human rights, the organization complains that the West has a “double standard”: “We have seen how Russian violations of international law have been condemned, crimes investigated and borders opened for refugees around the world. ” said Agnes, Secretary General of Amnesty International Callamard.
“This response should be a model for how we will tackle all gross human rights violations.” The “resolute and welcome approach” towards Russia stands in stark contrast to the grossly inadequate action in the face of current conflicts,” the report said.
China with impunity on the Uighur issue
Ethiopia and Myanmar are mentioned as examples. The treatment of refugees from Ukraine and people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan or Libya is similarly uneven. By opening their borders to Ukrainians, EU member states have shown that the European Union is “fully capable of receiving large numbers of people seeking protection and giving them access to healthcare, education and housing”.
The “double standards of the West” have given countries like China, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia “the necessary cover” to avoid criticism of their human rights record. For example, although serious human rights violations were committed against Uighurs in China in 2022, Beijing has escaped international condemnation from the UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council.
“Urgent reform” of the UN Security Council called for
Around the world, demonstrations would be restricted and criticism suppressed. In Iran, for example, authorities reacted with extreme brutality to unprecedented mass protests against decades of oppression.
The conflict in the Middle East also receives a lot of attention in the annual report: for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, 150 people died in 2022, which was “one of the deadliest years since the United Nations began systematically recording the number of victims in 2006” .
Amnesty International calls for “urgent reform” of the UN Security Council and the strengthening of international institutions designed to “protect our rights”. According to the organization, “first of all, the UN human rights mechanisms would have to be fully funded”. Only then could the necessary investigations be carried out to enable accountability and guarantee justice.