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Asylum seeker dies from meningitis

An asylum seeker who was housed in the Traiskirchen reception centre in Lower Austria has died of infectious meningitis.

Asylum seeker dies from meningitis
A view of the Traiskirchen reception centre. Photo: APA/HANS KLAUS TECHT

The 24-year-old man from Somalia arrived in Austria in June and was taken to Baden hospital two days ago. He was later transferred to a hospital in Vienna, where he died on Thursday.

According to some reports, the man not only had bacterial meningitis, but was also HIV positive.

The Interior Ministry has been in talks with the Health Ministry and all the asylum seekers in Traiskirchen will be given prophylactic antibiotics and will not be allowed to leave the centre until they have completed the treatment, which will prevent them from getting infected.

Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Traiskirchen’s mayor Andreas Babler (SPÖ) said he had only learnt of the case through media reports, and that it was “tragic when something like this happens”. He said he would also like to know who’s responsible for not noticing the symptoms of the disease sooner.

The Traiskirchen centre has been in the news recently due to the fact that it is completely overcrowded. It is only supposed to hold 480 asylum seekers but more than three times that number are accommodated there at present.

 

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IMMIGRATION

‘Discrimination’: Austria’s benefit cuts for immigrants ‘go against free movement’

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on immigrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law becasue they constitute "discrimination on the ground of nationality", a legal adviser at the bloc's top court said on Thursday.

A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on January 13, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The opinion is the latest legal hitch to befall a series of measures — imposed by a previous government that included the far-right — which sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

Richard de la Tour, advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said the cuts to child benefits constituted “an infringement of the right of free movement conferred on EU citizens”.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential.

De la Tour found that the cuts were “indirect discrimination on the ground of nationality which is permissible only if it is objectively justified”, and that Austria had failed to do so.

They contravened the principle that “if a migrant worker pays social contributions and taxes in a member state, he or she must be able to benefit from the same allowances as nationals of that state”, he added.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he hoped the cuts would save 114 million euros ($130 million) a year but in 2019 they recouped 62 million euros.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

The government that introduced in the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal in May 2019.

It included the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), which is still the senior partner in the current government.

However their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.

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