Fritzl home ‘could house refugee families’

The former home of Josef Fritzl - who held his daughter captive in the cellar for decades - could be used as accommodation for refugee families after the local council failed to find a buyer for the property.

Fritzl home 'could house refugee families'
Fritzl's house in Amstetten. Photo: Kurier/Wolfgang Atzenhofer

Lawyer Walter Anzböck, who is in charge of liquidating Fritzl’s estate in Amstetten, told the Kronen Zeitung newspaper that the empty house could be converted into eight apartments and accommodate up to 60 asylum seekers. He said that the council could not afford to let the property sit empty, and that he planned to discuss the feasibility of such a plan with the Red Cross.

The cellar, where Fritzl kept his daughter locked up for 24 years and repeatedly raped her, has been filled in with concrete to ensure that no-one will ever be able to enter it again and to avoid it becoming a gruesome tourist attraction. Fritzl fathered seven children with his daughter, and was convicted of murdering one of them through neglect.

He is now 80 years old and is serving a life sentence in nearby Stein prison. His house has been up for sale for some time but the €200,000 property has not yet found a buyer. It has remained empty ever since his horrific crimes came to light.

The local council will make the final decision on whether to use the building for refugee accommodation. So far it has ordered a container which will provide beds for 150 asylum seekers – fulfilling its quota.

Mayor Ursula Puchebner told the Kurier newspaper that she had not been informed of the proposal, and nor had the asylum coordination office.


‘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.