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IMMIGRATION

‘No asylum in Austria’ adverts in Afghanistan

Austria is to launch an advertising campaign in Afghanistan telling residents they will not get asylum if they migrate to Austria for economic reasons.

‘No asylum in Austria’ adverts in Afghanistan
Austria's aslum law is now stricter. Credit: Bundesministerium für Inneres/Twitter

The campaign will feature posters on social media, TV and billboards around the country, some of which read: “No asylum in Austria for economic reasons” and “Smugglers lie! Inform yourself!”

According to Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who presented the posters on Tuesday, it was a question of fairness to let people in their homeland know about their chances of asylum in Austria.

“Wrong information from people smugglers leads to false expectations in the native countries,” she said. “Therefore we want people in their home countries to already be informed about the strengthening of asylum law in Austria.”

The billboards will feature in the country’s five biggest cities and posters will also appear on buses in Kabul, on 1,000 Afghan websites and in newspapers.

Austria received around 90,000 asylum claims in 2015 and say they will limit the number of cases they are prepared to accept this year to 37,500.

Around a quarter of the asylum claims last year were from Afghans.

Political sniping continues in Europe

Meanwhile, the diplomatic row in Europe over responsibility for new asylum seekers continues after Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said Germany “should set up a daily quota and then bring these refugees directly from Greece, Turkey or Jordan.”

In an interview with the Kurier newspaper, he added: “Austria cannot and must not become a distribution hub [for refugees]. There must be an end to that.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded by saying countries that close national borders are not doing “anything against the causes for the refugee movement.”

The Austrian Chancellor’s comments on Wednesday follow the leaking earlier this week of papers from the country’s Military Intelligence Office, which warned that Austria could become a waiting zone for as many as half a million further refugees if Germany can not take on all 1.1 million asylum applications.

In a section of the paper published by the Krone newspaper, the office also warned that in view of the continuing crisis in regions of the Middle East returning people from countries like Turkey to their homelands is unlikely and a repetition of last summer’s refugee and migrant crisis is probable.

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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