Austria has suffered a sharp uptick in the number of criminal complaints made against migrants over the last year, latest figures from the interior ministry show.
Vienna saw the highest number of complaints made against migrants, with 960 criminal complaints made against Afghanis in the city between January and August of this year, up from 730 for the whole of 2015.
During the same period, criminal charges against Algerian migrants increased from 1,229 to 1,353, and for Nigerians, the numbers went up from 1,168 to 1,280. Overall, there was a 38.8 per cent rise in the number of criminal complaints made against migrants since the beginning of 2015.
The amount of crime committed by migrants was already significant: last year there were an astonishing 42,010 crimes against property offences committed by migrants, and a staggering 23,951 charges of bodily harm brought.
The figures were released by Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), in response to a parliamentary question from Rupert Doppler of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), the Local has reported.
Interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck confirmed that the government is looking at changing the law to crack down on criminality among migrants. “If an asylum seeker is convicted under criminal law, this can lead to them losing their asylum status or being denied asylum. The ministry is also looking to speed up the process of deportation for such cases,” he said.
However, the figures have been challenged by Christoph Riedl, an asylum expert for the Diakonie charity, who pointed out that they could merely be down to more people reporting crime, rather than an actual increase in crime.
“Just because the number of criminal charges has risen, this doesn’t automatically mean that asylum seekers are committing more crimes,” he said. “These are figures for criminal complaints and not per capita statistics.”
The increase coincides with the fact that more police have been deployed since last year, driving the conviction rate – but not necessarily the number of crimes – up.
He added that many of the criminal complaints are for relatively minor offences such as carrying fake documents.
“Many refugees from Afghanistan have little choice about travelling with fake documents,” Riedl said. “In order to interpret these figures properly, we need to look at the statistics for the number of convictions.”
The rise coincides with a large increase in the numbers of migrants living in the capital, Vienna: at the end of August 2015 there were 2,176 Afghans, 443 Nigerians, and 64 Algerians. A year on the figure had more than doubled and the city was host to 5,618 Afghans, 683 Nigerians, and 183 Algerians.