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IMMIGRATION

Up to 90 percent of failed asylum seekers ‘not deported’

Up to 90 percent of failed asylum seekers are not being deported from Austria because their countries of origin will not agree to readmit them, according to Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil (SPÖ).

Up to 90 percent of failed asylum seekers 'not deported'
Refugees and migrants arriving in Greece. Photo: UNHCR/A.McConnell

He said the problem was particularly acute with migrants from African countries.

“At the moment, it doesn’t make much difference whether someone gets a negative or positive decision on their asylum application because we are unable to implement any decision in between 80 and 90 percent of cases,” Doskozil said. He added that the issue is pressing as it’s estimated that the population of Africa will “double by 2050”, and people will continue to try and flee poverty and persecution.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) agrees with him: “We will have to live with this migration issue… maybe for years, or decades.”

Sobotka supports the resettlement model, which would allow EU countries to select refugees from UNHCR camps in conflict regions and relocate them in Europe. The resettlement system is used by Australia, the USA and Canada.

In July 2015 EU member states agreed to resettle 22,000 refugees directly from conflict areas within two years. At the time, Austria said it would accept a further 400 refugees through this system, but so far not a single person has arrived in Austria this way.

After the migrant crisis reached a peak last year, EU member states became reluctant to accept more migrants and some began imposing restrictions. Austria received the bloc's second-highest number of asylum requests on a per-capita basis last year, and has capped applications for this year at 37,500.

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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