Austria is tightening the rules for family reunification by making DNA tests the norm. However, critics warn of high costs for taxpayers and symbolic political measures.

The ruling ÖVP party in Austria is planning to tighten family reunification for asylum seekers. She suggests expanding the use of DNA tests to check family relationships, as “ZDF” reports. So far, DNA tests have only been carried out if there are doubts about the authenticity of the documents presented, such as birth or marriage certificates. However, according to ZDF, these were only necessary in around one percent of cases.

But the proposed expansion of DNA testing has raised concerns among experts. According to ZDF, the hit rate, i.e. the cases in which discrepancies are discovered, is only 0.1 percent. Asylum expert Christoph Riedl from Diakonie Austria expressed skepticism to ZDF about the government’s plans. “So either the documents are clear, then I don’t need a test. And if they are not clear, then I can do a test,” Riedl is quoted as saying.

ZDF also emphasizes that the costs for the DNA tests, which initially have to be borne by the asylum seekers themselves, will be reimbursed by the state if the relationship is confirmed. Expanding testing could therefore result in significant costs for taxpayers.

ZDF also reports that the number of asylum applications in Austria has fallen sharply, by almost 50 percent compared to 2023. Critics of the planned measures therefore argue that the problem of family reunification is an artificial one. The opposition parties have already criticized the government’s plans, calling them a “smoke bomb” and a “hoax,” according to ZDF. With the European elections approaching in June, the debate about DNA testing and family reunification could play a crucial role in the political discussion.