Austria to use DNA evidence in crackdown on family reunification for migrants

Chancellor Nehammer announces DNA tests will be used amid pressure from to curb immigration.

Austria to use DNA evidence in crackdown on family reunification for migrants
AP Photo/Theresa Wey
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Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has unveiled plans to impose stricter controls on family reunification for migrants entering the country, including the use of DNA tests to verify family relationships. The move comes as Nehammer's government faces intense political pressure over record levels of immigration.

Speaking to the Austrian Press Agency (APA) on Sunday, Nehammer said the new measures aim to "restrict family reunification through strict checks." In addition to genetic testing, security checks will be ramped up with assistance from document experts and specialized officers taking more stringent methods, though he did not disclose specifics on the number of fraud cases detected, Remix News reports.

The announced crackdown precedes upcoming European Parliament elections and reflects the governing Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) coalition's efforts to stem the rising tide of migrants gaining residency via family ties. However, the opposition far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) is demanding even tougher action, calling for the complete elimination of the family reunification program.

"We are setting the family reunification quota to zero," declared Dr. Christoph Luisser, the FPÖ's asylum affairs spokesman for Lower Austria. He accused Interior Minister Gerhard Karner of failing to implement a new settlement regulation, resulting in forced family reunifications that "clearly contradict the interests of Lower Austria."

Data from the Interior Ministry reveals around 6,900 asylum applications were filed in the first quarter of 2024, with 45% made through family reunification visas — a sharp rise from just 16% in 2023. The influx has strained resources, particularly in the education sector where Vienna schools must accommodate 350 new students per month on average, relying on portable classroom containers.

While Nehammer's DNA testing plan aims to curb blatant fraud within the family reunification system, critics argue legitimate relatives will still ensure a steady flow of migrants through this channel. Incidents of fraud were already being detected when document discrepancies arose.

The FPÖ, currently Austria's most popular party, has long attacked the ÖVP's immigration stance as too lenient, promoting a "Fortress Europe" policy to drastically slash arrivals and potentially spur millions to leave EU nations entirely.

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