Anti-migrant attacks on the rise in Austria

A report from the Austrian interior ministry shows that attacks on refugee shelters and asylum facilities have doubled in 2016 compared to 2015. According to the report, 49 attacks were noted last year, double the 25 incidents reported in 2015.

The recorded incidents ranged from racist graffiti to arson, stones being thrown through windows and gas pipes being cut. Albert Steinhauser, a Green party politician, said that 44 of the incidents were clearly motivated by hatred. Steinhauser also told the Austria Press Agency that 77 percent of the cases remain unsolved.

Activists believe many more incidents may have occurred in 2016 than the 49 officially recorded.

The report also revealed that another 49 attacks were carried out by migrants themselves at the shelters including violence, death threats, stalking and vandalism. Speaking about what might contribute to migrants getting violent, Steinhauser said: “We have to look closely at what the causes are. We strongly suspect that trauma, experiences of war and extreme violence play a role.”

Struggling to cope with more than 130,000 asylum seekers in the country, Austria has recently passed a new law that denies rejected asylum seekers any accommodation if they refuse to leave the country. The country has also joined the Balkan Frontier Defence Project, comprised of 15 Eastern European countries, which aims to curb the flow of migrants northward.

Anti-migrant attacks are on the rise in a number of other European countries. In Germany, more than 900 attacks on refugee homes were recorded in 2016. Similar reports from the UK indicate that hate crimes targeted at migrants rose by 50 percent between 2015 and 2016.

A European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights report published at the end of 2016 identified “serious and widespread incidents of violence, harassment, threats, and hate speech towards migrants and asylum-seekers, and their children” in 14 EU countries.