Austria has adopted a controversial integration law that bans wearing  face-concealing Islamic dress or burqas in public places. The law was adopted after it was signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen and issued by the Federal Law Gazette, the OE24 media outlet reported. The ban will be effective from October 1, 2017.

“The law will also force asylum seekers to pass a year-long integration program aimed at providing them with basic knowledge of the German language and European values,” Sputnik International reported.

Opponents have criticised the government’s  move arguing that the ban is both discriminatory and unnecessary as a tiny number of women in Austria are thought to wear veils. Women who will wear Islamic veils – either the burqa or the niqab – in public places, will face a fine of €150 ($168).

Other measures include a clampdown on distributing extremist material, and immigrants being obliged to sign an “integration contract”. A 12-month “integration programme” will include courses in “values” and the German language. Failure to attend can result in cuts to social security payments. The outlawing of the burqa or other clothing concealing the face follows similar moves in other countries in the European Union, starting with France in 2011. The legilsation was passed  by the centrist government amid rising support for the far-right. More than 90,000 people have arrived in the Central European country since the start of the migrant crisis in 2015, mostly from Muslim majority countries.

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