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IMMIGRATION

Slovenia clamps down on borders

Slovenia said Thursday it would restrict the entrance of migrants across its Schengen border with Croatia allowing in only those seeking asylum in Austria or Germany.

Slovenia clamps down on borders
Refugees at Vienna's Westbahnhof station. Photo: Kim Traill

“Due to the restrictions introduced by Germany and Austria, the entrance (to Slovenia) will be allowed only to migrants that express their intention to apply for asylum in Austria or Germany,” Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar told a news conference.

The restrictions on the border will enter into force with the arrival of the next train from Croatia, scheduled for 10:00 pm (2100 GMT), Gyorkos Znidar said.

Slovenia will also beef up the control of its 670-kilometre-long (410 miles) so-called “green border” with Croatia to prevent illegal crossings.

The Austrian government announced Wednesday it would cap the number of asylum-seekers and would begin turning back any new arrivals seeking to claim asylum in Scandinavia.

Slovenia, a tiny former Yugoslav state of two-million people, became the main transit country for migrants heading for Austria and Germany after Hungary closed its borders to migrants in mid-October.

Over 420,000 migrants have crossed Slovenia since then, almost all of them heading for Austria.

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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