Refugees: "A refugee is someone who because of a "well-founded" fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.", according to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which Austria joined in 1955.
As Germans were driven out of Poland, the then CSR and Hungary after World War II, Austria took in a total of 237,932 ethnic German refugees after 1945. Afterwards Austria was faced with three large-scale waves of refugees: in 1956 when 180,432 Hungarians fled their country (when the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Communists was crushed), in 1968, when approximately 162,000 Czechs and Slovaks fled the CSSR (in the wake of the repression of the Prague Spring) and in 1981, when 33,142 Poles fled Poland (after martial law was imposed). Aside from these three waves of refugees, the number of refugees remained at between 2,000 and 10,000 annually until the mid-1980s. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, the number of refugees rose, reaching an annual record high of 27,306 political asylum applications in 1991. In response to the opening of Eastern Europe and the subsequent wave of refugees, the Asylum Law of 1991 was passed. With its entry into force and the adoption of other measures (e.g. intensification of border patrols), the number of refugees rapidly declined.
In 1994 there were around 60,000 refugees from former Yugoslavia in Austria due to the Balkan War. Austria granted these refugees temporary residence permits ("De-facto-Refugees"). Until the end of the 1980s Austria enjoyed great international acclaim as a refugee state. Attempts to restrict possible abuses of refugee status have led to more restrictive asylum policies, which have been criticised by organisations such as Amnesty International.
Literature: K. Althaler and A. Hohenwarter (ed.), Torschluß. Wanderungsbewegungen und Politik in Europa, 1992.