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IMMIGRATION

Thousands of lost children reach Austria

According to the answer to a parliamentary question, during 2014 a total of 31,274 refugees and asylum seekers were registered arriving in Austria, of whom 1,984 were unaccompanied children.

Thousands of lost children reach Austria
Posters from a demonstration in support of asylum seekers. Photo: APA/OCZERET
The majority of the refugees and asylum seekers were male, consisting of over 22,000 men.
 
Interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative People's Party revealed additionally that 9,000 of the refugees were children – of whom, 1,984 came without parents or guardians.
 
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.

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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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