In a press release on February 24th, 2021, the right wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) stated that around 20 percent of illegal migrants who are picked up by the border police in the Austrian state Burgenland “are bringing the coronavirus along to Austria.“ The statement is mostly false.
The FPÖ-statement refers to unnamed police sources and gives the impression that it originated from the article in the Austrian tabloid „Kronen Zeitung”, which had been written by journalists Karl Grammer and Christian Schulter. Yet, in the article itself, no information, including the statement in question, can be found. After contacting journalist Karl Grammer, he explained:
“The article indeed refers to migrants currently finding their way into the Schengen Area, mainly via cargo trains and trucks. But the statement that about 20 percent directly take corona along with them, does neither come from us nor from the local officials who gave us a insight into the current situation.”
Hence, we ruled out that the statement came from the “Kronen Zeitung”. The next step was to get more information on COVID-19-tests on illegal migrants from the Austrian Ministry of the Interior. According to the Ministry’s spokesperson Harald Sörös “the responsible authorities of the national police department offer voluntary tests on COVID-19 to persons who are unlawfully staying on federal territory.”
Furthermore, Sörös noted that there is no legal basis for a compulsory COVID-19-test for illegal migrants. Also, no statistics about positive tests within this group are being conducted. This information leads to the conclusion that the statement in the press release of the FPÖ-parliamentary group is at least partly false.
Since it can’t be guaranteed that all illegal migrants are being tested on COVID-19 on arrival, it is not possible to make an exact statement about the percentage of positive tests. Moreover, no official statistics exist that could prove a proportion of 20 percent. Still pending is a statement of the FPÖ-parliamentary group concerning this issue, in which the percentage or the source of this statement is named.
In short, the claim that “around 20 percent of illegal migrants are bringing the coronavirus to Austria“ is mostly false.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © University of Applied Sciences for Management and Communication Vienna, Austria
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