FPÖ accused of ‘smear campaign’ in Styria

A leaflet produced by the Styrian branch of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) which compares the income of an average Austrian family with that of a family of immigrants on benefits has been criticised by human rights organization SOS Mitmensch.

FPÖ accused of 'smear campaign' in Styria
File photo: APA/epa

SOS Mitmensch said that the leaflet amounts to "a smear campaign" as it suggests that immigrants are sponging off the state, and are better off than Austrians. 

It compares two fictional families with three children. On the one hand is the Austrian family where the father earns an average wage and the mother works part time. Their monthly income, including family benefits, amounts to just under €2,570.

On the other hand is the immigrant family, who are seeking asylum and don’t work, and who claim €2,640 a month in needs-based social security payments and family benefits. They are €70 better off than the Austrian family – “and for doing nothing” the leaflet exclaims.

However, SOS Mitmensch accuses the FPÖ of having miscalculated and says that the Austrian family would in reality earn around €200 a month more, spokesman Alexander Pollak said.

Pollak added that needs-based social insurance, or Mindestsicherung, is only given on a temporary basis and is conditional on the recipient’s willingness to work.

"We’re demanding that the FPÖ should cease agitating against refugees and concentrate on serious politics. If it feels that needs-based social insurance is too high, or that wages are too low, then it should raise this issue – but not try to turn people against each other with false allegations,” Pollak said.

The FPÖ maintains that its figures are correct and are based on an average monthly income, not taking into account any one-off payments.

State party secretary Mario Kunasek denied that the FPÖ was trying to incite hatred, and said the leaflet was not a criticism of asylum seekers, but rather of the system.

“In many areas asylum seekers are better off than Austrian citizens and we believe it is our right to point this out. There has to be a difference between people who have paid their taxes here and those applying for asylum,” Kunasek said.

He added that needs-based social security payments needed to be revised, so that immigrants were not immediately given the highest possible amount.

For members


What is Vienna’s MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The city of Vienna now has several new appointment slots for a 'first information meeting' for those wanting to apply for Austrian citizenship. Here's what you need to know.

What is Vienna's MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna, MA 35, is known for long waiting periods, delays and even mistakes being made in applications. It has recently received renewed criticisms as new appointments for Austrian citizenship were not open until mid-2023.

Things got even worse, and applicants now have to wait until October 2023 to get the first appointment. Only after this meeting will they receive another date (sometimes also a year later) to submit the documents asked. 

READ ALSO: ‘Insensitive and inefficient’: Your verdict on Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

Green politician Aygül Berivan Aslan said the reform of MA 35 had “failed”. She said she welcomed the SPÖ’s push towards simplifying access to citizenship but felt that “theory and practice do not match”. Speaking in the Viennese parliament, she introduced a motion for a six-month evaluation of the office.

Aslan also proposed that in the case of delays of more than six months, citizenship costs should be waived for applicants. 

Stadt Wien service screenshot

How bad is the situation?

Not only do people have to wait months for a first talk and then months to submit documents, but once their part is done, the wait is not over. There are currently 3,800 procedures pending for more than half a year in the MA 35, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Integration Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) said.

He justified delays saying that the number of applications had risen by around 30 percent his year in Vienna – only last month, there were 600 appointments booked. 

“The sharp increase can be explained by the eligibility of refugees from 2015 to apply for citizenship as well as by uncertainties caused by the war in Ukraine”, he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Bring everything you have’: Key tips for dealing with Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

He added that the goal would need to be “simplifying the procedures nationwide”. However, Wiederkehr also said there were reforms still being implemented in the MA 35.

Wiederkehr said: “On the part of the city, there are ongoing staff increases at MA 35. The training of the employees is so complex that it takes about a year.” 

“In addition to the increase in staff, there was an analysis to optimise some work processes, as well as intensive training. Digitalisation is also being accelerated”, he added.