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IMMIGRATION

200 migrants stranded on road and rail tracks

Update: Police in Lower Austria found almost 200 migrants dangerously stranded on a motorway in the district of Mödling early on Thursday, and 12 people walking along a railway line in Melk.

200 migrants stranded on road and rail tracks

On the A21 Vienna ring road a group of 80 migrants were spotted walking along the road at around 8:00 am and risking their lives by attempting to cross it during heavy traffic.

Police spokesman Johann Baumschlager said that they are likely to have been abandoned by people smugglers.

Another group of 60 migrants were found near the same area, and later on Thursday a group of 20.

They are currently being questioned by police. It's believed they were abandoned in the Schwechat area on the S1 road.

Officers also received a call at around 5am that several people had been spotted walking along the train tracks near to Gross-Sierning, St Pölten, but were unable to find them.

At 6.15 am they received another call from Austrian Railways that the group had reached Loosdorf in Melk.

Baumschlager told the ORF broadcaster that the railway line was closed between 6:20 and 6:55, with some delays to train services. Police apprehended 12 people, including 11 Pakistanis and one Indian man, who had made their way into Austria illegally.

In the last few weeks large groups of migrants have been found abandoned in Lower Austria and Baumschlager said it was proving to be a “logistical challenge” for local police who have to be constantly on the lookout around Marchegg, St. Pölten, Bad Deutsch-Altenburg and Schwechat. 

Austria is on the main migrant land route into Europe, with thousands
passing through the country after crossing into the European Union over the
Serbia-Hungarian border.

Groups of migrants are now stopped almost daily after crossing into Austria.

 

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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