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IMMIGRATION

Resort owner: ‘Send refugees to Ukraine’

The Austrian owner of a dinosaur-themed holiday park has suggested that the province of Styria could tackle its asylum seeker quota by sending refugees to Ukraine, and putting them up in a hotel he owns there.

Resort owner: 'Send refugees to Ukraine'
Photo: Styrassic Park

Wolfgang Ulrich, owner of the Styrassic Park dinosaur-themed holiday resort stirred up a lot of discussion with his proposal this week, when he suggested that up to 100 asylum seekers could be accommodated in a hotel which he owns in Ukraine, according to a report in the newspaper Kleine Zeitung.

He played down the danger for asylum seekers – pointing out that his hotel is only 1,000 km from Styria's capital Graz, but nearly 2,000 km from the war-torn eastern area of Ukraine.  

He suggested that other hotel owners with property abroad could follow his example, and that this could help solve Austria's refugee problem.

Styria's deputy governor Siegfried Schrittwieser, of the Social Democrats (SPÖ), said the proposal was highly cynical. He suggested that Ulrich was attempting to "profiteer by carting off war refugees seeking our protection to Ukraine". 

In any case, the proposal would be politically difficult to implement because it would be illegal under international law, he added. 

Recently an Austrian politician caused a stink by referring to asylum seekers as "cavemen". 

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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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