This report examines multi-level governance dynamics, integration policies targeting post-2014 migrants and their implementation in four localities in Austria. Based on fieldwork (interviews and an online survey) the report provides an overview of
1) national and regional integration policies targeting post-2014 migrants in Austria;
2) policymaking relations among the key actors involved in these policy processes in the four localities and key features of policy networks within which these actors interact;
3) how these actors perceive and define integration.
In the Austrian case, there is a strong distinction in institutional responsibilities between asylum seekers on the one hand, and humanitarian migrants with asylum and subsidiary protection status, on the other. Initial reception is handled by the federal government, and the provinces are responsible for reception and support of refugees after admission to asylum procedures, but receive funding from the federal government. The local level is not formally involved in the reception and care of asylum seekers, but the establishment of shelters can have an impact on municipalities and they can exert leverage on decisions lobbying or protests. Once a status is granted, beneficiaries of international protection are discharged from the reception system within four months after granting of the status. It is in this transitional phase where local municipalities and other institutions part of the local integration governance infrastructure, such as NGOs, welfare services, or the Public Employment Service acquire a crucial role. This said, municipal and NGO support structures are already relevant during the asylum stage.
The report finds clear differences but also similarities between the studied localities in terms of the challenge of accommodating refugees, implementing measures and dealing with political and social pressure. It is evident that the larger localities already have experience in dealing with migrants and a certain political stability due to an established integration governance infrastructure, while the smaller localities feel the political pressure related to the reception and integration of refugees more strongly and the scope for action is correspondingly smaller.
The development and/or expansion of networks to support newly arrived migrants and refugees had a critical role and was observed in all municipalities, whereas stakeholders see their ability to contribute to policy at higher levels of government as limited. Although, they have a voice in legislative action, they play a minor role in decision-making. In general, it was observed that in all four localities, support from civil society was important to meet the current needs of hosting refugees and providing support during the ongoing asylum process for those migrants still in the procedure.
Authors: Isabella Skrivanek, Tamara Kerschbaumer, Hakan Kilic, Albert Kraler