Five arrests after sexual harassment at Wels Volksfest

Police in Upper Austria have detained five young asylum seekers from Afghanistan over accusations they sexually harassed women during a wine and beer festival in the city of Wels over the weekend.

Five arrests after sexual harassment at Wels Volksfest
Attractions at the Wels Voksfest. Photo:

The mayor of Wels has demanded “zero tolerance” in the wake of the alleged incidents.

Eight women have so far made official complaints to the police, saying that they were groped and sexually harassed on Saturday. Police have since arrested five young men aged between 15 and 22, and are still looking for another suspect.

Police are calling on witnesses and any further victims to contact them.

Die Presse newspaper reports that the youngest suspect, aged 15, was identified by one of the victims and accused of sexually harassing her. The incidents reportedly happened in a packed party tent during the Wels Volksfest. The eight women told the police the men grabbed them and groped them between the legs.

At least three women immediately filed complaints with the police. Reacting to the news, the mayor of Wels Andreas Rabl demanded “zero tolerance” for such cases and “full consequences for the perpetrators” in a post on his Facebook page.

The organizers of Wels’s Volksfest – which continues until September 11th – issued an apology in the wake of Saturday’s assaults, saying that it had increased security and that its guests' safety remained a top priority.

Any further victims or witnesses from the Wels Volksfest are being asked to call the police on 059133-473333. 


‘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.