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IMMIGRATION

Five arrested after asylum centre scuffle

Five local men have been arrested in Alberschwende in Vorarlberg after trying to break into an asylum seekers home on Easter Monday.

Five arrested after asylum centre scuffle
Alberschwende. Photo: böhringer friedrich/Wikimedia

Three of the men, aged between 19 and 29, have confessed, and two are still being questioned, police spokesman Horst Spitzhofer said.

He added that the men are not believed to be part of the right-wing scene but had been drunk, and had decided to target a pro-asylum seeker campaign.

They tore down and ripped up several posters in support of asylum seekers in Dorfplatz, near the town hall at 2:00am on Monday morning.

They then got into an argument with two supporters of the local "We are asylum" campaign and threatened the men, aged 32 and 46. Witnesses prevented the scuffle from getting out of hand.

Later that morning, at 5:00am, two of the men tried to break into the asylum seekers centre but were prevented by the same men they had fought with earlier who were staying at the home. The vandals kicked in a glass panel on the front door and slightly injured the 32-year-old man.

Some witnesses told Austrian broadcaster ORF that the men had been shouting right-wing slogans outside the home.

A few days ago hundreds of Alberschwende residents gathered to protest against the deportation of five Syrian refugees from the community of just over 3,000 people. 

Vorarlberg governor Markus Wallner condemned the attack. "Anyone who thinks he can express his opinions on asylum through violence, will have to answer to the police and the prosecutor," he said, adding that this was a "zero tolerance" issue.

He said that although the men were very drunk at the time, this was no excuse. They will be charged with criminal damage, trespass, and assault.

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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