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IMMIGRATION

Former brothel to house asylum seekers

A former brothel in Styria, which closed just last week, has been made into temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

Former brothel to house asylum seekers
The homepage of Studio 6 has a note saying that it is moving to a new location.

The conspicuous blue building, next to the busy motorway 67 in the village of Weitendorf, is now home to two Serbian Roma families, including seven children. A sign outside reads ‘Studio 6’ (six, or sechs in German, sounds like sex).

“The last lady left the place on Friday,” the building’s owner said (she did not want to be named). She said the building will be able to accommodate up to 50 people “in new and luxuriously furnished apartments,” and that she plans to renovate the rooms.

But the two families are not happy and have already threatened to go on hunger strike. “It stinks, the bed linen is dirty, and the older children have to share a bed. You can’t bring children to live in a brothel,” one refugee complained to the Kleine Zeitung paper.

“We can’t leave these people on the streets,” the owner said. She has to provide the families with three meals a day and receives €19 per day, per asylum seeker, from the government.

If the building were to house 50 people she would be taking in around €28,500 a month.

More refugees are expected to arrive this week – to the annoyance of mayor Franz Plasser (ÖVP). He said that he had wanted to allow only three refugee families to live in the 1,500 strong community but had only discovered on Wednesday that 50 people were expected to arrive. 

“This can’t be – how will it work? What are people expected to do in this former brothel?” he said.

He added that it would be much harder for 50 people to become properly integrated into the community and that as the accommodation was directly on a busy road it was not suitable for families.

He feels that the owner and politicians have gone over his head, and should have consulted him.

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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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