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IMMIGRATION

Doctor in spotlight after refusing to treat refugees

A Viennese doctor who put up a sign on the door to his practise saying that he wouldn't accept asylum seekers as patients may face disciplinary action. He also announced his decision on Facebook, causing a storm of protest on the social networking site.

Doctor in spotlight after refusing to treat refugees
Refugees arriving at Vienna's Westbahnhof station. File photo: Caritas

Dr Thomas Unden, who works as a general practitioner and also as a foot and hand surgeon and pain therapist in Floridsdorf, is now being investigated by the Vienna medical association after people complained about his attitude.

Doctors may only refuse to treat a patient if they have a “justified reason”, such as having been insulted or attacked by the patient, the medical association said.

Registered asylum seekers and those who have been granted asylum receive health insurance and should therefore be treated like any other patient.

Doctor Unden could receive a fine, and in the worst case be barred from the medical profession.

 

 

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He has made several anti-asylum seeker statements in recent months on his Facebook page. According to an article in Der Standard newspaper he also made several anti-Semitic statements and linked to an article which praised Hitler and advised people to arm themselves against refugees.

He told the Kurier newspaper that he also refuses to treat politicians from the “Social Democrats, Greens or conservative People's Party”.

Doctor Unden received a €1,500 fine three years ago from the Disciplinary Board of the Medical Association after he appeared on ATV television and made misogynistic statements, saying that Austrian women are a “combination of saggy breasts and varicose veins”.

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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