Ski star joins campaign in support of refugees

Austrian alpine skiing champion Marcel Hirscher has joined a new social media campaign using the hashtag #showyourfacechallenge - speaking out in support of refugees and against xenophobia.

Ski star joins campaign in support of refugees
Marcel Hirscher. Photo: News Zach - Kiesling Roman

“As an athlete I don’t usually express my opinion on political issues, and there are certainly more appropriate people who could do this,” 26-year-old Hirscher says in a video uploaded to Facebook.

He adds that as winter and colder weather approaches it is time to show that “there is a clear majority, who react with compassion and understanding instead of hatred or fear. And that is why I say: Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.” On Thursday morning his video had almost 300,000 views on Facebook.

At the end of the clip he nominates others to follow his example and film a short #showyourfacechallenge video – including Austrian President Heinz Fischer, soccer star David Alaba and fellow alpine skier and Olympic gold medallist Anna Fenninger.

The #showyourfacechallenge was only launched on Monday by 32-year-old Vienna-based actor Wojo van Brouwer. “It cannot be that the people who stir up hatred against refugees, are louder than we are – the people who have welcomed refugees into our country. We must show our faces and this is why I’m starting this challenge,” van Brouwer says in his video.


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Leute, ich wurde von Peter Hörmanseder, besser bekannt als eine Teil von Maschek, für die #showyourfacechallenge nominiert und sage dafür aufrichtig DANKE. Ich äußere mich als Sportler normalerweise nicht zu politischen Themen, dafür gibt es Geeignetere, doch hier geht es nicht um Politik sondern um Anstand. Wenn es kälter wird in unserem Land, und nicht der Winter dafür verantwortlich ist, dann gilt es zu zeigen, dass die große Mehrheit anders denkt. Mitgefühl und Verständnis sind angesagt, anstatt Angst und Hass. Und deshalb sage ich: SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT CLEAR, REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE!Und nun nominiere ich den sehr geehrten Herrn Bundespräsident Dr. Heinz Fischer, unseren Fußballstar David Alaba, die beste Skifahrerin der Gegenwart Anna Fenninger, meine geschätzten Kollegen Aksel Lund Svindal und unseren Lieblingsnachbarn Felix Neureuther

Posted by Marcel Hirscher on Wednesday, September 2, 2015


‘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.