In the face of a huge migration crisis which has significantly impacted social life in Europe, some European countries have taken steps to maintain law and order while also carrying out their humanitarian duties to migrants. Austria is the latest to adopt such measures. The country has passed controversial new legislation which bans women from wearing Islamic face veils in public. From October, police will start handing out £130 fines to women found wearing burqas and niqabs at universities, courts or on public transport.
The law also forces migrants to attend integration courses and asylum seekers to do unpaid public service. Under new rules, migrants who have a ‘good chance’ of staying in Austria must attend a 12-month integration school where they will be taught German courses and learn the ethics, values and culture of the country.
Migrants who refuse to adhere the law will face a benefits cut. The measure, backed by ruling parties the Social Democratic party (SPÖ) and Austrian People’s party (ÖVP) has been met with mixed receptions and 3,000 muslim women took to the streets to protest against the ban in February.
Despite the strict measures, there are some including the far-right FPÖ party, which criticised the government for not imposing stricter measures. On the other hand, the country’s left-leaning president Alexander Van Der Bellen insisted that all women should wear headscarves to combat Islamophobia. Speaking to students at The House of the European Union in Vienna, he said: ‘It is the right of a woman… to dress herself however she wants. That is my opinion about it. ‘Besides that, not only Muslim women. Every woman can wear a headscarf. ‘And if it goes on – and I am already on the next question – with actual rampant Islamophobia, the day will come that we must ask all women to wear a headscarf.’