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    Former MP from the conservative Austrian People’s Party Marcus Franz said during an appearance last week on the OE24 news television channel that young women in Vienna have to wear shawls to avoid being harassed by male Muslim migrants.

    Radio Sputnik has discussed the issue with Dr Reinhold Gärtner, professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Innsbruck.

    Sputnik: Is there generally a problem with integration between migrants of various faiths and the local population in Austria?

    Reinhold Gärtner: Well, on the one hand, parts of the Austrian population or the European population have widespread prejudices towards foreigners in general and these prejudices are strengthened by especially right-wing politicians and media. On the other hand, the confrontation with other cultures leads to disturbances on both sides and we all have to try to eliminate these disturbances. One problem you pointed out is the question of integration and I would say the main problem is that measures of integration have been introduced only very reluctantly in recent decades. We are still in search of making integration possible, but this requires efforts on both sides.

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    Of course, migrants have to accept the rules of law in host countries, like human rights or equality of men and women or freedom of opinion, but the host society has to make sure that migrants can become part of our societies; that they are socialised and can associate with others outside their ethnic community.

    Sputnik: There is also the problem of ghettoes [forming]. That is also a problem, because then you don't really see the integration: when you have one group of people living all together and often in poor neighbourhoods. Is that also a problem and is anything being done?

    Reinhold Gärtner: This is a problem. This is ghetto building and it [does] not [have] a mono-causal reason. It would need more efforts from politicians to avoid these ghettoes and to make integration possible, but we don't see very much effort in this direction.

    Sputnik: Why do you think that is?

    Reinhold Gärtner: Because the question of native population and foreigners has been ignored for decades and that is the main problem.

    Sputnik: If there are voices like Marcus Franz; if there are voices saying these kinds of things, obviously some people are either trying to create this conflict or trying to ignite some kind of hatred or something. There is something going on. Is attention now being given to this? Are there proposals to create programmes that could effectively integrate and perhaps educate regarding local customs, local language and so forth? I mean, the US, they have very widespread programmes for immigrants to teach them the language and the customs of the locals.

    Reinhold Gärtner: There are efforts and there are courses for foreigners in Austria, for language courses and civic education courses. But on the other hand, we have right-wing populist political parties and they are not interested in any solution to this problem. So they are strengthening prejudices and that is the main hindrance for integration.

    Sputnik: Is there a tendency for these parties to become more popular of late?

    Reinhold Gärtner: Unfortunately, it is, yes. I mean one indicator will be the elections for the European Parliament and then we will see how these right-wing parties come out of these elections — we have them in governments in Austria, in Italy, in other countries — so, there has been recently a rise of these right-wing populist parties.

    READ MORE: Austria, Denmark Present Plan on Curbing Illegal Migration — Reports

    We hope that this rise can be stopped in the near future.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr Reinhold Gärtner and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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