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Die Volksanwaltschaft ist eine unabhängige Kontrolleinrichtung. Ihre Aufgaben sind in der Bundesverfassung und dem Volksanwaltschaftsgesetz festgelegt.

Discrimination Case: Turkish guests are not allowed to enter a discotheque

June 27, 2011

A man of Turkish origin wants to visit a discotheque in Graz with his Austrian wife. The doorman only demands an ID from him, all others are let in. But the doorman rejects the Turkish passport he is shown with the words “There might be anything in that, I can’t read it” and does not allow the man to go into the discotheque.

A few months later, another man of Turkish origin wants to visit the discotheque. Whilst his brother is a frequent guest on the premises and is let in, he is rejected by the doorman without visible reason.

Both men reported the matter for violation of the ban on ethnic discrimination pursuant to Art. III Section 1 Line 3 of the Introductory Law to the Administration Procedure Laws. However, in both cases the City Administration of Graz did not determine any discrimination and terminated the proceedings without any penalisation. The reason given was that other people whose appearance indicated a migratory background also visited the discotheque and so it could not be proven that ethnic origin was the sole reason for the rejection. The NGO Helping Hands Graz made a complaint to the Austrian Ombudsman Board as the representative of the parties concerned.

As the Austrian Ombudsman Board established on 31 May 2011, this action on the part of the penal authorities constitutes malpractice in the administration. As early as the year 2007, the AOB in Vienna carried out an extensive investigation and discovered grave shortcomings in the enforcement of the ban on discrimination. Subsequently, the Constitutional Service of the Austrian Federal Chancellery expressly stated in a letter to all penal authorities that a violation of the ban on discrimination did not constitute a petty offence.

Nevertheless, the prosecution of racist discrimination by the administrative penal authorities continues to be inefficient, as the AOB was forced to determine in the ongoing investigation. Discriminatory door policy in restaurants and discotheques is an experience persons with migratory background often have to encounter, as NGO reports show. It is all the more important that such occurrences are prosecuted and penalised by the authorities. The widespread argument on the part of publicans that other persons with migratory background are admitted to the premises does not exclude there being ethnic discrimination in the concrete case. There are, for instance, indications that many establishments have a “foreigner quota”, i.e. only admit a specific number of persons with migratory background, which, of course, also constitutes forbidden discrimination.

Despite the high number of experiences of discrimination, extremely few complaints and reports are made to the authorities and the few proceedings are often terminated without penalisation. In 2009, for instance, throughout Austria there were only 10 charges for ethnic discrimination in restaurants and discotheques. Half of the proceedings were terminated. For this reason it is not surprising that the ineffective enforcement of the ban on racist discrimination by the Austrian authorities has been criticised for a long time by international agencies.

Hence, the AOB has given the responsible Federal Government the recommendation to ensure with concrete instructions that the ban on ethnic discrimination according to Art. III Section 1 Line 3 of the Introductory Law to the Administration Procedure Laws is enforced throughout the country in a uniform and effective manner. The authorities must be suitably trained and their awareness enhanced for forbidden discrimination. The AOB also recommends launching information campaigns to inform the population which restrictions in access to services constitute banned discrimination and where the members of ethnic minorities can turn to demand the end of discriminatory behaviour and prosecution of violations of the law.