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IMMIGRATION

Austria returns 5000 migrants to EU countries

Over 5,000 migrants have been sent back from Austria to the first EU country they entered and more will be returned in the future, says Austria's Interior Minister.

Austria returns 5000 migrants to EU countries
Muslim Hands UK

Speaking to journalists at a meeting in Germany with the Bavarian Christian Social Union party, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said: “If I remember rightly, we have sent more than 5,000 or 5,500 back from Austria, especially to Bulgaria and Romania amongst others.”

She added that people who apply for asylum in Austria after travelling through Croatia and Slovenia will be returned to these countries, as according to the Dublin Regulation they must apply for asylum in the first EU country they reached.

“If refugees come from Slovenia and Croatia to Austria and apply for asylum in Austria … then we'll take them back to Croatia and Slovenia,” she said, pointing out that hardly any asylum applications had been lodge in these countries.

Arguing that a functioning asylum system needs an effective return policy, Mikl-Leitner added that “there's still a lot of work to do on this, especially with regard to north African countries”.

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She added that 545 people smugglers have been jailed in Austria and the country expects about 2,000 trials of traffickers this year.

Chaotic scenes in Salzburg

The news comes amid chaotic scenes at Salzburg train station with the temporary accommodation designed for 800 people frequently over capacity as thousands of asylum seekers arrive with the hope of travelling onto nearby Germany.

On Wednesday over 2000 migrants arrived, with Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden warning on Thursday of an emergency situation that is permanently overwhelming the station.

“Under the circumstances we cannot cope for much longer with Salzburg functioning as a transit point from Austria to Germany,” 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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