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Eleven sex attacks a day in Austria

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Some self-defense schools report increased interest among women. Photo: EPA/BORIS ROESSLER
23:10 CET+01:00
An average of 11 new sexual assault cases are being filed every day in Austria, according to latest figures from the Interior Ministry.

It includes a high over the New Year period when 24 cases were reported even though at the time police had denied there had been any incidents. They later admitted lying in order to protect the privacy of the victims, but rejected a suggestion that they had been ordered to cover what had happened by politicians.

In total 343 sexual assault cases were filed in January, an average of around 11 daily attacks, according to an answer to a Parliamentary question by the opposition party Team Stronach.

In 175 (51 percent) of the 343 sexual assault cases filed in January, Austrians are under suspicion, while 30 (8.7 percent) of the total 343 cases in January involve asylum seekers. Those 30 cases involve 25 suspects, meaning that some of the accused were alleged to have committed more than one sex attack. Another 43 cases involve non-asylum seeking foreigners and in a further 95 cases charges have not been made.

Austrian Interior Ministry data released this week also show that between 2003 and 2014, asylum seekers made up between 0.1 and 0.3 percent of the population depending on the year, but between 3 and 5 percent of all crimes committed in the country were identified by police as having been carried out by registered asylum seekers.

Figures also suggest, however, that prior to the mass influx of refugees in 2015, asylum seekers were less likely to be sex attackers than Austrians. Between 2003 and 2014, some 1.6 percent of all crimes committed by Austrians were sex attacks, but just 1.2 percent of all crimes carried out by asylum seekers were sex attacks. Data for 2015 is not yet available.

Police have pledged to react to the problem of sex attacks by increasing the use of video surveillance technology, and also to offer more advice to women and girls about keeping themselves safe and also urging them to report any incidents quickly.

When the figures were revealed, one Austrian newspaper noted how they had been accused of lying when they initially reported the number of incidents over the New Year period.

On 7 January, tabloid newspaper Osterreich had revealed that sex attacks had not just been carried out in the German city of Cologne, but also in Austria where there had been systematic attacks by young refugees on women in the country.

But the newspaper's reporter Victoria Bichler had then been subjected to a campaign of abuse including the suggestion that she had simply made up her report.

However, in an answer to an official parliamentary question today by the opposition Team Stronach Party, the paper says that its original story was not only proved correct, but in fact the real situation was far worse than even they had realised.

In total, according to the parliamentary answer, there were 24 sexual assaults on women over the New Year at the time when Austrian police were claiming there had been none.

The Interior Ministry statement said: "Vienna and Salzburg were the cities with the biggest problem. Most of the sex attacks happened on women at public events. They were targeted mostly by small groups of asylum seekers who, after surrounding them, then attacked."

Until the official reply, only half of the attacks had been ever reported in Austrian media.

Questioned by the newspaper about why they kept them secret, a police spokesman said that the right to privacy of the victim took priority over the right of the public to know about the incidents.

They also rejected any suggestion that politicians had ordered them to cover up the extent of crimes by asylum seekers.

Story courtesy of Central European News

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UPDATE: This story was updated on March 13th. It was originally published with the headline 'Sex attacks on the rise in Austria'. This did not accurately reflect the statistics referred to in the story, which was about the average number of sex assault cases being filed in Austria in January. Some content in the article has also been updated to better reflect this.

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