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IMMIGRATION

Graves defiled with swastikas and slogans

A Jewish and a Muslim cemetery were defiled with Nazi symbols and anti-migrant slogans in western Austria, police said on Monday, just weeks after similar attacks on a refugee hostel and Jewish museum.

Graves defiled with swastikas and slogans
'Stop the asylum flood' was daubed on a refugee hostel earlier this month. Photo: Polizei

Unknown perpetrators desecrated graves and buildings with a red pen in the Jewish cemetery of the town of Hohenems, close to the Swiss border, some time between Saturday night and Sunday morning, a police spokeswoman told the APA news agency.

The offenders also drew swastikas and wrote racist slogans at a Muslim burial ground in the nearby municipality of Altach.

Police suspect the attacks were carried out by the same people who earlier this month painted phrases like “Stop the asylum flood” on a refugee hostel and drew swastikas on buildings in the Jewish quarter, including the Jewish Museum, in Hohenems.

The town's mayor, Richard Amann of the conservative ÖVP, is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the right-wing FPÖ party over his victory in municipal elections in March.

The FPÖ had come first with 43.3 percent, but Amann ended up winning the run-off vote by 125 votes.

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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