Up to 100 Austrian jihadis in terror groups

As many as 100 Austrian residents are currently believed to have joined a jihad, by participating in fighting with Islamic terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Up to 100 Austrian jihadis in terror groups
Photo: APA (Archiv/epa)

A third of Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria and Iraq is from Europe. According to the Austrian Federal Office against Terrorism and for Protection of the Constitution (BVT) there are at least two dozen Austrians among them, the news daily Kurier reports.

Most of the European extremists fly to Turkey from where they cross the border into Syria.

The IS headquarters is situated in the town of Ar-Raqqa in northern Syria.

According to local inhabitants, all hotels and guest houses are occupied by foreign fighters, among them approximately 50 fighters from Austria.

All in all there are 100 Austrians suspected by the BVT of fighting in Syria. Nearly all of them have migrant backgrounds, and a high proportion of them are Chechens.

Some of the fighters have already returned to Austria. The BVT has classified them as potentially dangerous.  Around 20 fighters are believed to have died in combat.

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‘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.