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Black market operating in Traiskirchen claim

A journalist who pretended to be an Afghan refugee so he could secretly film inside Austria's Traiskirchen refugee centre has claimed asylum seekers are operating a black market in the camp.

Black market operating in Traiskirchen claim
ORF

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Markus P., who has both Austrian and Afghan roots and was reporting for the Swiss paper “Tagesanzeiger”, says he did not have difficulties conning the security services at the centre, which is operated by the company ORS on behalf of Austria's Interior Ministry.

“There is a security guard but he cares little about the security,” he said. “You can climb over the fence, which asylum seekers do if they do not want to wait at the entrance for their ID's to be scanned. I could even at one point pass by the security, going in and out of the gate. They were not at all interested.”

Once inside the centre, he stayed there for two days and filmed inside the camp using a hidden camera.

He said he first noticed the rubbish around the camp, which was removed once a day by asylum seekers who received 3€ an hour to carry out cleaning services.

The reporter added: “I have seen very many Toilets, several times, and never have I found toilet paper.” There were also allegedly no opportunities to take German lessons.

He also claimed that the centre is home to a black market in donations.

“That is well organised,” he said. “Some young men stand at the fence and accept donations, which they then sell in the camp, swap for other goods, or keep for themselves. Water is the only thing everyone receives over the fence.”

Head of operations at ORS, Wilhelm Brunner, rejected the allegations that there was no toilet paper and said refugees receive a packet and are able to claim additional paper at any time.

He added that German lessons are no longer offered because overcrowding meant they had to use the space as accommodation.

“We have constantly communicated with the Ministry about our assessment of the situation and the fact that capacity has been exceeded. Due to the extremely difficult situation it is no longer possible for us to fulfil all the services as stipulated in the contract,” Brunner said, adding that he had “no knowledge of a black market in the care facility.”

'Inhumane conditions' at Traiskirchen

The undercover report follows complaints earlier in August by Amnesty International that there are “no respect” for human rights at Traiskirchen.

The human rights organisation criticised the “inhumane conditions” after visiting the centre and speaking to 30 asylum seekers.

Amnesty Austria General Secretary Heinz Patzelt said inspectors were particularly concerned about 1,700 under age refugees who appeared to have no-one to care for them.

He also criticised the fact that parents were not always housed in the same quarters as their children and that women had to shower in the same facilities as the men, with no curtains or privacy.

“The failure in the care of refugees could have easily been avoided, the blame lies primarily with administrative errors,” he said.

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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