New city map app helps refugees navigate Vienna

A new city map app designed to help refugees orientate and integrate themselves in Vienna is being created by developers in the city.

New city map app helps refugees navigate Vienna
Esther Vargas/Creative Commons

Building on the popular city map apps used by most smartphone owners, ‘New Here’ is a virtual tool that maps places that might be necessary for an asylum seeker or refugee to know about.

The app due to be launched in June is designed to help asylum seekers navigate areas such as education or training, healthcare, work, administration, or what to do with free time.

It’s available in German, English, French, Farsi, Dari and Arabic, with the app creators hoping it will give new arrivals the confidence to get out into the city.

“The app should make it possible for anyone who is new to the city to navigate themselves and give them a bit more independence so that they can lead a self-determined life,” said initiator of the city map app Anna Müller-Funk, speaking to the Kurier.

“For those who have fled their homes it is difficult to always have to ask people for help”, said Müller-Funk, adding that the app will also help NGOs. “They always have to explain again where the next German course is or where there is a gynaecologist in Vienna who speaks Arabic.”

“I left rarely left the house in two months,” says Syrian refugee Ahmad, 26, who did not know anyone in the city when he first arrived who could advise him on where to go.

“Vienna offers so much but no-one knows this. Then you stay at home, because you don’t know anyone,” he adds.

The free app will be available to download from June 20th, World Refugee Day.


‘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.