Category: Austria

Spotlight on RESPOND-ers: Ursula Reeger and Ivan Josipovic

By Ivan Josipovic (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Ursula Reeger (Austrian Academy of Sciences).

The Austrian team of the RESPOND project is located at the Institute for Urban and Regional Research (ISR)[1] of the Austrian Academy of Sciences[2]. In this blog entry, we intend to tell a little bit more about the institution and its tasks and aims, the persons involved in the project, and how RESPOND evolved from our point of view. To start with the latter, our RESPOND journey started in May 2016 when Ursula was asked whether she was interested in a collaboration in the Horizon 2020 call “Europe and the global challenge of migration”. For the rest of the year, she was active in working on selected parts of the application and in December 2016, she took part in a working meeting in Stockholm, where she met some members of the future consortium for the first time. After the consortium received excellent evaluation results and full funding for RESPOND, Ursula as the PI in Austria made a lot of interviews with potential candidates and finally decided to ask Ivan Josipovic to join her in the Austrian part of the project. Ivan started to work at the ISR in January 2018.

What are the main tasks of ISR?

The ISR is the only spatial science oriented non-university research institute in Austria. It is first and foremost engaged in the analysis of structures and the dynamics of modern society in urban and regional contexts, analysing population and society in their natural, built and social environment. The ISR emphasises the multi-perspective and transdisciplinary approach to research which is also reflected in the various scientific backgrounds of its researchers. ISR places societal problems at the heart of the analysis. Our spatial focus lies specifically on Vienna, Austria and Europe, however, the comparative element beyond national boundaries is important.

Since 2016, our research projects are oriented along two research groups “Urban Transformation” and “Innovation and Urban Economies”. Ursula and Ivan are part of the first research group which focusses on urban and more and more also regional change due to immigration. The research group brings together interdisciplinary (geographical, sociological, anthropological, political) expertise in urban research and a strong emphasis on diversity analysis, local integration analysis, urban housing market matters and studies on interethnic relations, social cohesion and migrant entrepreneurship.

Ursula Reeger

Ursula started to work at the ISR in 1989 right after she had finished her studies in Geography with an emphasis in Spatial Research and Regional Planning at the University of Vienna. She received her PhD in Geography in 1999 with her thesis focussing on xenophobia in Vienna and its determinants. Her research interests include international migration and its impacts on cities, integration of migrants on the labour market and the housing market, interethnic relations on the local level and the governance of migration and integration. While conducting a lot of smaller projects focussing on migrants in Vienna together with her colleague Josef Kohlbacher, Ursula has also been part of international projects funded mostly by the EU during the past 15 years. Her membership in the IMISCOE network[3] from its very beginning in 2004 gave her the opportunity for networking on the European level and for being part of such international research endeavours. The most important ones are

  • IDEA[4] “Mediterranean and Eastern European countries as new immigration destinations in the European Union”, led by CMR at Warsaw University (FP 6, project duration 2007-2009),
  • GEITONIES “Generating interethnic tolerance and neighbourhood integration in European urban spaces”, led by the Geographical Institute of the Lisbon University (FP 7, project duration 2008-2011) and
  • IMAGINATION[5] “Urban implications and governance of CEE migration in Europe”, led by Erasmus University Rotterdam (JPI Urban Europe, project duration 2013-2016).

She has published on the mentioned topics in a wide range of journals and in edited books.

Ivan Josipovic

Ivan had just finished his master’s thesis when he joined Ursula at the ISR to work on RESPOND earlier this year. With a background in Political Science and Socioeconomics he has already gathered experience studying migration and European integration. His master’s thesis focused on the European border regime and different forms of sovereignty underlying certain rationales of border policies. The RESPOND project allows him to further dig into these and other migration related matters through empirical research. In Austria, the project has already entered the phase of fieldwork with joint efforts to collect data through interviews with important stakeholders but also beneficiaries of asylum and asylum-seekers.  Besides that Ivan is developing a research proposal for his dissertation.






Introducing RESPOND’s Working Paper Series – Global Migration: Consequences and Responses

This Working Paper Series features the work of RESPOND researchers and is open to all scholars working on related topics.

The first set of papers analyze the socio-economic, political, legal and institutional context of migration governance in Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the European Union as a whole. The papers are an incredible resource for scholars applying a comparative legal framework or for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of migration policy in Europe.

Click this link to access the papers.

To submit a paper for consideration for inclusion in the series, send an e-mail to: or

Post-“Crisis” Austria: Recent Figures and Trends in Political Approaches to Asylum

By Ivan Josipovic (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Ursula Reeger (Austrian Academy of Sciences).

Austria has a long tradition as a destination country for migrants and refugees. It is a country that for decades promoted labour migration and admitted refugees during the communist era of Eastern Europe as well as during the Balkan Wars. The notion of the latest advent of mass migration to Austria relates to the increasing number of asylum applications since 2013 and in particular in 2015. In that year alone, application numbers reached a six-decade high of 88,000 persons, while thousands of refugees crossed the country for their onward journey. This latest phase also displays novelties concerning the composition of the newcomers in terms of countries of origin. The three largest groups of asylum applicants in 2015, namely Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, are relatively new to Austria. In 2017, 102,000 persons born in one of these three countries were registered in Austria, compared to 16,000 in 2011.

Often referred to as a period of crisis, by 2018 Austria has doubtlessly left behind a general state of perceived overextension regarding the issues of refugee reception and integration. While a suggested normalization of course implies the problem of referring to an alleged norm, there are at least three alleviating circumstances that statistically support the argument of increased control over or at least the governability of forced migration and migrant integration.

First, the number of asylum applications is in continuing decline since November 2015, with 6,113 people having lodged an application from January to May 2018. In 2017 already, figures had dropped beneath the pre-crisis level of 2014 (see Figure 1). Border management facilities including fences, tents, and containers at Spielfeld, the major crossing point to Slovenia, are left empty. Early preparations for fencing the frontiers at the crossing point Nickelsdorf towards Hungary have been curbed as well. Screws and fencing material are held at disposition for a possible quick intervention (Picture 1).

Second, the number of asylum applicants in reception facilities has dropped beneath 60,000 persons by mid-2018, a figure that is expected to further decline with sinking asylum applications. In regions like Upper Austria, large-scale facilities are increasingly shut down and most regions attempt to foster individual accommodations. Likewise, the number of open applications at the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum has halved from around 60,000 cases in March 2016 to 31,500 cases by January 2018.

Third, labour market integration of beneficiaries of asylum and subsidiary protection slightly surpasses early prognosis. The Austrian Labour Market Service reports that of those granted a title in 2015, 26.2 per cent had found an employment by October 2017, of those receiving their title in 2016 around 16.8 per cent had done so. Initial calculations had predicted that it would take five years to integrate half of the newly arrived into the labour market.

However, reducing the political crisis associated with increased migratory movements to mere quantities obscures the deep contradictions underlying contemporary statehood and migration governance in Europe. The balancing of the constitutionally enshrined right to asylum with an unresolved question of EU-wide distribution of refugees, or the reconciliation of integration policies with a highly regulated labour market and a selective welfare state are certainly two permanent struggles to be named. It is needless to say that due to the lack of consistent long term solutions, the topic remains a hotly politicized matter, promising for electoral gains if picked up and framed in accordance with needs and feelings of a certain audience.

Thus, while it remains to be investigated how and to which degree the increasingly restrictive political responses might have affected immigration, it has by now become evident that immigration has vice versa had a strong impact on Austrian politics. The right-wing FPÖ which has traditionally held an issue ownership on this topic as well as the conservatives of ÖVP succeeded at the 2017 parliamentary elections, breaking (once again) the Austrian traditional pattern of grand coalitions. At the level of regions, which have crucial competences regarding the reception of asylum seekers and social aid services, we are witnessing an increasing divergence regarding allowances and different concepts of accommodation. At the EU level, Austria displays an engagement in a disintegration process of a core European polity, namely Schengen, with the repeated renewal of exemption provisions for control and the creation of a border police unit. Given these changing circumstances, it remains to be seen how political dynamics in a multi-level governed migration system will develop in the future and how rationales of a second wave of policies will be translated and dispersed during the Austrian presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2018.