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Dörfler hints Saualm asylum facility here to stay

Carinthian Governor Gerhard Dörfler wants to keep using the remote Saualm residence for asylum applicants even after the province’s contract for its rental expires in April.

Dörfler, who belongs to the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), said today (Thurs) the provincial government would begin negotiating a new rental contract with the owner of the facility at the Saualm, "Sozialhilfe Kärnten" (Social Assistance Carinthia) and might even decide to buy it.

The results of the 1 March provincial election in Carinthia will have a lot to say about whether the Saualm facility will continue to be used as a residence for "delinquent" asylum applicants. The BZÖ is in favour of doing so, but the other parties are opposed.

Dörfler has been praising the isolated residence for asylum applicants in the run-up to the election.

Dörfler had 16 asylum applicants transferred to the facility last autumn. He claimed at the time all of them were demonstrably delinquent and had been convicted of crimes in court. The Klagenfurt public prosecutor’s office, however, claimed six of them had spotless records.

Asked recently if he needed to apologise to the applicants, Dörfler said: "Never! The Saualm is a luxury hotel in comparison to Chechnyan housing." The governor added he would make security a priority in dealing with asylum applicants.

Dörfler asserted he would always give priority to public security and transfer any applicants under suspicion of criminal activity to the Saualm.

The sixteen asylum applicants confined at the Saualm by Dörfler last autumn fled en masse
back to Klagenfurt in December 2008.

The applicants complained that medical and psychological care had been lacking at the detention centre and the nearest doctor was 17 kilometres away

"If I am a criminal," one applicant said, "I should be locked up instead of confined to the Saualm."

Dörfler said then: "I will not weaken one iota of our policy of dealing with asylum applicants who are criminals. If the men do not return to the Saualm, they will lose their right to provincial care."

Human rights groups have expressed concern about the Saualm camp in Völkermarkt District.

Roland Schönbauer, the officer-in-charge of the Vienna branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has said his office had asked Carinthian authorities to provide details about the conditions in the facility and those working there.

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