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7000 granted asylum in Austria in 2014

Around 7,000 people were granted asylum in Austria last year, according to figures from the new federal office for asylum seekers (BFA).

The BFA was set up in January 2014 and received a total of 28,027 asylum applications in its first year, over 10,000 more than in 2013. This was due to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

“39 percent of asylum applications were recognised,” BFA director Wolfgang Taucher said. 7,266 asylum seekers lost their right of residence, 1,619 people were deported and almost as many were transferred to the first EU country they arrived in, in accordance with the Dublin II Regulation.

Syrians made up the largest number of asylum seekers, with 7,754, and many of those were granted asylum under the UN Refugee Convention. The second highest number was from Afghanistan, with 5,070. Taucher said many of the Afghan cases were more complicated and some applicants were sent back. 1,996 applications came from Russia, primarily from Chechens.

Some asylum seekers were granted a temporary stay in Austria for "subsidiary protection" and some were given a residence permit for "extenuating reasons".

Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) has said she wants to introduce a ‘fast-track scheme’ where certain asylum cases would be completed within ten days.

This would mean that if an asylum seeker’s application is rejected, but he wants to appeal the decision, he would still have to leave Austria. She said this would generally apply to refugees from so-called ‘safe’ countries of origin (including Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania) who are “increasingly blocking the system” and “slowing the process for real war refugees”.

Refugees with fake travel documents and those deemed to pose a “threat to national security or public order” could also be fast-tracked, she said.

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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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