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IMMIGRATION

Deutsche Bahn suspends trains to Austria

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn is suspending key services to Austria and Hungary until October 4th, citing border controls introduced to manage a record influx of refugees.

Deutsche Bahn suspends trains to Austria
Refugees arriving at Westbahnhof station. Photo: Caritas

The route from Budapest via Salzburg, Austria to the southern German city of Munich has been taken by tens of thousands of refugees in recent weeks.

“As a result of administrative measures (border controls) the long-distance routes of Deutsche Bahn will be suspended, initially until October 4th, 2015, between Munich-Salzburg (Austria) and Budapest (Hungary),” Deutsche Bahn said in an online statement.

Overwhelmed by the record influx, and seeking to register the
asylum-seekers as they enter the country, Germany temporarily
reintroduced border controls on September 13th.

All regular passenger services have been cut between Salzburg and Munich, DB said, although passengers could travel via other routes to the Austrian capital Vienna.

“There will be no rail replacement service,” Austrian Railways spokesman Rene Zumtobel told the APA press agency. “Customers who wish to travel from Salzburg to Munich will have to take a bus or taxi to Freilassing.”

Trains from and to Innsbruck, Bregenz and Zürich will be running as normal.

This comes as Austrian officials say nearly 10,000 refugees arrived in Nickelsdorf on the Hungarian border on Monday. A police spokesman said most of the arrivals were taken to emergency shelters.

Refugees are continuing to cross into Austria from Hungary, even after Hungary sealed its southern borders to Hungary and Serbia. A train from Hungary carrying an estimated 1,000 people is expected on Tuesday. Many refugees arriving in Austria wish to continue their journey to Germany, via Salzburg.

EU interior ministers are meeting to try and resolve the dispute over how to re-locate the 120,000 refugees who have recently arrived in Europe.  

The meeting comes ahead of an emergency meeting of EU leaders tomorrow.  A group of central European states – Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland – are resisting calls for mandatory quotas.

Reports from Brussels say countries which refuse to take in refugees may face financial penalties, while those accepting refugees may receive €6,000 per person.

 

 

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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