Global Issues: Austria & Czech Republic/Migration
Current Issues with Migration, Immigration, and Human Trafficking in Austria and the Czech Republic Overview
The movement of people into, out of, and through nations takes place in different forms that have become global issues today. Migration, immigration, and human trafficking are current issues in Austria and the Czech Republic that have global significance because of the push and pull factors related to globalization, a phenomenon that is rapidly shaping our world.
Migration, the movement of people through, into, and out of a specified area, is the term used to describe the overall movement of people. This includes immigration and human trafficking, among other migratory terms. Immigration is the movement of people into a specified area, whether of their own free will, or as refugees from conflict in their homelands. Human trafficking is the movement of people through coercion or force, wherein the people being moved are bought and sold as slaves with no free will or human rights. Each of these three phenomena, migration, immigration, and human trafficking, are very important global issues affecting both Austria and the Czech Republic as a direct result of globalization.
Since 1995, Austria’s joining of the EU and the Schengen agreement has allowed free movement into and out of the country to other member states. As a country bordered by 8 others, Austria has been a country of immigration in recent history, though officially it does not claim the status of an immigration country.
Until very recently in 2008, Austria’s border with Hungary was closed and illegal immigration was an issue that called for military assistance. Since Hungary joined the EU Shengen Area, however, the border controls have ceased to exist, and free movement from Hungary into Austria is allowed by EU mandate.
This freedom of movement from the east is a cause for concern for the Austrian government because of Hungary’s status as a transit country for illegal immigrants from non-EU countries in Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia. Austria’s concern is that Hungary does not have laws in place, nor the power to enforce such laws, that can control the influx of illegal immigrants and criminal trafficking into EU territory, and ultimately into Austria. This issue has been brought up by Austria’s conservative politicians during the past two years.
Immigrants and their descendants are called “guest workers,” and consist of recognized minority groups in Austria. Ethnic immigrant groups in Austria include Turks, former Yugoslavs, Albanians, Polish, Hungarians, Romanians, Arabs, Slovenes, Slovaks, Czechs, Persians, Italians, Russians, French, Chinese, Spanish, and Bulgarians. The Gypsy-Sinti are also migrants who are a recognized ethnic minority in Austria. Though the minority groups are recognized officially, there is still dispute among Austrian civilians and officials about minority and migrant rights, especially concerning workers rights.
Austria’s net migration rate is 1.83 migrants/1000 population according to the 2010 CIA World Fact Book. While over 91% of Austria’s population is ethnically Austrian, the highest percentage of migrants include former Yugoslavs, at 4%, and Turks at 1.6%. Turks make up the largest ethnic minority in Austria, however, because many have become nationalized. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Turks reside in Austria today.
An outstanding current issue Austria faces with immigration is concern over the large Turkish population. Turks were hired as “guest workers” in 1964 for the construction and export industries, and later came to Austria as refugees during the 1970s. In 1973 the first efforts to curb the influx of Turkish immigrants took shape in Austrian government, resulting in the end of the campaign to hire Turkish workers for industry and the beginning of restrictive immigration law.
Several policies have been implemented by the Austrian government to restrict immigration. The first was the 1975 Aliens Employment Act, which set work permit quotas. The Residence Act of 1992 placed further restrictions, stipulating quotas for residency permits without the right to work. More restrictions were put into place in 1997, and the most recent restrictions were made in 2006.
Aside from legal restrictions, there are social issues related to the immigrant Turkish population. In the past decade, intolerance of Turkish people and culture has gained momentum, largely due to the terrorist acts committed against Western countries by Islamic radicals. Further Austrian intolerance of the Turks in general is evidenced by the Austrian government’s actions in 2005 to unsuccessfully block the start of Turkish negotiations to join the EU.
Social discrimination continues today, but the Austrian government has made efforts since 2005 to help Turkish immigrants and their descendants gain rights equal to those of naturally born, ethnic Austrians. The 2004 law for Equal Treatment in Employment was adopted by all provincial governments in 2006 to help with this.
Austria is both a transit country and a country of destination for human trafficking because of its central European location and its high economic development. All forms of human trafficking occur here, including mostly trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced domestic labor, and child trafficking.
Most trafficked people coming into Austria come from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Women account for those who are trafficked primarily for sexual slavery, while men are trafficked primarily for forced labor, which occurs in the service sectors, as well as in the agriculture and construction industries. Forced begging uses trafficked children from primarily Eastern Europe and Roma (Gypsy) communities.
Sex trafficking has seen an increase due to traffickers abuse of the prostitution laws, wherein criminals use the law to keep trafficking victims in the country to work as prostitutes. There has been no government action so far to persecute these criminals, or to change the prostitution laws to prevent trafficking in sex slaves.
To prevent forced work in the service industry, Austria made new regulations stating that newcomers must appear in person before the Austrian immigration officials in order to be educated about forced labor, and what they should do to get help if they become victims. The government also held a meeting with all foreign embassies to notify them of this new requirement.
In 2004, Austria’s Foreign Ministry set up a Human Trafficking Task Force to combat all types of human trafficking within its borders. The task force wrote a plan of action against human trafficking for the Austrian government in 2007, and a second plan was written for the years 2009-2011 to try and prevent trafficking in humans, protect victims of trafficking, and prosecute criminals associated with trafficking in humans. This new protocol is in direct line with international efforts to streamline the fight against human trafficking, which outlines the three measures of prevention, protection, and prosecution. In 2009, the first report on combating human trafficking in Austria was published in accordance with international efforts to unify the global approach to stopping trafficking in persons.
Austria also works with governments in origin countries for human trafficking, especially with southeastern European countries that see large numbers of emigrants leaving for the EU every year. Recognizing that combating human trafficking will take a unified international effort, Austria also works with other EU member countries in accordance with the international Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons. Additionally, Austria will participate in the new Stockholm Programme, which calls for more cooperation between government Justice systems in order to better target, capture, and prosecute traffickers.
The Czech Republic, only an independent nation since 1989, went from a country of emigration to one of immigration in a short span of time. Since joining the EU and Shengen in 2004, the country’s increasing socioeconomic status draws migrants from Eastern Europe and as far away as Mongolia and Vietnam. The Czech Republic is also a transit country for migrants coming from Eastern territories to Western Europe and the US.
Because of its status as a young country, migration policies are still being shaped by Czech Government. Current issues with migration are made more difficult by the country’s newly acquired EU membership because of the need to quickly develop effective migration protocol. Illegal immigration and human trafficking are two large issues under the umbrella of migration that the Czech government is currently trying to solve.
Currently, the Czech Republic faces migration issues such as confronting illegal immigration, providing adequate assistance to refugees and asylum seekers, drawing in highly skilled immigrants for development, and criminal trafficking of humans and drugs.
The Czech Republic has an immigration rate of 0.97 migrants/1,000 population according to the 2010 CIA World Fact Book. The number of illegal immigrants is estimated at 300,000 to 340,000. This is largely due to the Czech government’s efforts to increase the population through liberal migration legislation following the divorce from Slovakia in 1993. Hundreds of thousands flooded into the Czech Republic from the East in search of better economic conditions in Western Europe. Even though most of these immigrants were in transit to countries further west, many stayed in the Czech Republic.
Because of the large influx of foreigners, and the developing immigration laws, the government now faces issues with employment of immigrants without work permits. It is an increasing problem that illegal immigrants can easily find jobs in the Czech Republic, and the government is working with the office of the IOM in Prague to try and resettle illegals back to their country of origin.
The main countries of origin for migrants to the Czech Republic are the Ukraine, Slovakia, Vietnam, Poland, Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, and Moldova. Immigrants from theses countries typically go to work in the service sector or labor industries. There are immigrants from Western countries, but these are usually temporary migrants who take prestigious jobs in governments or schools in large cities, especially Prague.
The biggest issue the Czech Republic faces with its immigration policy is that the still developing policy must continue to meet with EU standards, especially in the context of illegal immigration and illegal migrant workers. Because the Czech economy is supported by a large number of foreign workers, many of whom are in the country illegally, the government must find a way to make its immigration policy more effective while at the same time not compromising its economy. The need to do this is an increasing concern among the EU and Czech citizens, but elite government officials have yet to stress concern over immigration issues.
The Czech Republic is a transit, destination, and origin country for human trafficking, especially in women for the sex trade. Trafficking victims come from the Eastern European countries, Vietnam, Brazil, and Mongolia. Roma, (Gypsy) women are also trafficking within the country for the sex trade. Trafficking for forced labor also takes place here, especially in men and women from far Eastern Europe, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Additionally, Czech nationals are trafficked to Western European countries for forced labor and forced prostitution.
Though the Czech government complies fully with the international protocol to end trafficking in persons, the conviction rates of trafficking criminals remains low, and punishment for convicted criminals does not meet sufficient periods of incarceration for the crime. Even so, the Czech police force has increased training to inform officers of how to detect traffickers and their victims.
The Czech government places protection of victims in NGO authority, giving money to the organizations in Czech Republic who provide assistance to trafficking victims. In 2009, the government provided $213,000 to various NGOs who aid victims of trafficking, which was less than in 2008. Though monetary assistance is down, NGOs have continued to provide assistance to just as many victims in 2009 as they did in 2008.
Government efforts to prevent trafficking are partnered with the IOM office in Prague through the Ministry of the Interior. Among these efforts are education for foreign workers and their children who are more likely to become victims of trafficking because of their socioeconomic status. This includes immigrants and nationals in the Mongolian and Vietnamese communities. In addition, the education of foreign tourists about human trafficking in the sex industry is aimed at decreasing the demand for prostitution, which draws many Western European tourists to the Czech Republic year-round.
The government’s Ministry of the Interior continues to cooperate with NGOs such as the IOM to fund research about human trafficking in Czech Republic. Ongoing efforts to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute criminals include policy advocacy from NGOs like the IOM, who use their research to inform the government of the best strategies for combating human trafficking.
CIA World Factbook. 2010. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
Drbohlav, Dusan. 2005. “The Czech Republic: From Liberal Policy to EU Membership.” Migration Information Source, website. http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?ID=325
“Fight Against Trafficking in Human Beings.” The Austrian Foreign Ministry. 2010.http://www.bmeia.gv.at/en/foreign-ministry/foreign-policy/human-rights/main-human-rights-issues/combatting-human-trafficking.html
Jandi, Micheal, and Albert Kraler. 2003. “Austria: A Country of Immigration?” Migration Information Source, website. http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?ID=105
Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic. Entire Website. http://www.mvcr.cz/clanek/obchod-s-lidmi-dokumenty-982041.aspx
US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report. 2010. Austria, pp. 68-69. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/142981.pdf
US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report. 2010. Czech Republic, pp. 129-131. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/142982.pdf
“World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples-Austria: Turks.” 2008. Minority Rights Group International. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/topic,463af2212,488edfe22,49749d5cc,0.html