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REFUGEE CRISIS

IMMIGRATION

Refugees evade police border controls

Around 1,000 migrants still arrived in southern Germany from Austria on Monday despite a shock decision to reimpose border controls, German federal police said.

Refugees evade police border controls
Photo: Caritas

Hundreds of refugees and migrants are still crossing the frontier, albeit at a slower pace than before the policy U-turn announced by Berlin on Sunday, police spokesman Rainer Scharf told AFP in the southern German town of Freilassing.

“The federal police department of Rosenheim has recorded around 1,000 people arriving since midnight,” he said late Monday, referring to the Bavarian region over the border from the Austrian city of Salzburg.

Germany announced the new checks Sunday after authorities in the Bavarian state capital Munich said they were buckling under the waves of new arrivals.

Around 63,000 migrants came by rail to the main station in Munich since August 31, including 20,000 over each of the last two weekends.

Scharf confirmed that most came from the Middle East via Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, Hungary and Austria before arriving in Europe's top economy.

“Until now everyone was being shuttled to Munich,” he said.

“Now we are carrying out a kind of pre-registration, taking people's names and so forth. Then they are being put on buses and can be distributed throughout Germany.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Monday that Germany was not slamming its doors to refugees but argued the new measures were needed to restore order to the asylum process.

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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