Asylum and flight: The example of Spielfeld

Seiichi Furuya

In September 2015 the number of refugees seeking to gain entry to Austria at the Spielfeld border crossing increased dramatically. Hungary had closed its border to Serbia, and so the flow of refugees made its way to Austria via Slovenia. Every week thousands of refugees gathered at the Spielfeld border crossing (by the end of 2015 there were around 190,000 people there).

At the end of 2015 the Republic of Austria decided to implement what it referred to as ‘border management’ at the border crossing itself. It consisted of a fence some four kilometres in length erected around the border crossing. In March 2016 the so-called Balkan route for refugees heading north was shut down, once and for all. At that same time the agreement on refugees between the EU and Turkey came into force. As a result of these decisions the influx of people fleeing to Austria (and, for some, onward to Germany) via Spielfeld was halted almost entirely. At present no-one knows if and when the border fence around Spielfeld (a fence that was not even deemed necessary during the Cold War) will ever be dismantled again.

Asylum applications in Austria 

2016 about 42.000
2015 about 89.000
2014 about 28.000
2013 about 17.000

Source: Federal Ministry of the Interior

Numbers on Migrants & Refugees: 

387.487 arrivals into the EU
363.348 by sea
24.139 by land
5.079 dead / missing – Mediterranean

1.046.599 arrivals into the EU
1.011.712 by sea
34.887 by land
3.735 dead / missing – Mediterranean

Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM) Austria

Seiichi Furuya, born in 1950 in Izu, Japan, studied at the Tokyo Polytechnic University. He lives and works in Graz.