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Anti-racists protest against Austrian government

Several thousand people braved snow and freezing temperatures in Vienna on Saturday to protest against what they called rising discrimination and racism in Austria.

Anti-racists protest against Austrian government
Members of "Omas gegen Rechts" ("Grannies against the Right") at a previous Vienna rally in January. PHOTO: GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP
Many carried placards condemning the government, which since December has been made up of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's conservative People's Party (OeVP) and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache's far right Freedom Party (FPOe). 
 
The government has made a crackdown on immigration one of its main priorities, pledging to speed up and toughen the asylum process and increase deportations. In last year's elections Kurz stood on a platform of regaining control of Austria's borders after the migrant crisis of 2015-16 saw more than 150,000 people seek asylum in the country of 8.7 million.
 
However, speakers at the rally, organised by left-wing and anti-racist groups, said the government's policies risked stigmatising foreigners, making them scapegoats for social problems.
 
“I'm here with you today because, 80 years after the Nazis' takeover of Austria, I don't want people to be discriminated against once again because of their origins,” Daniela Gruber-Pruner, MP for the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe), told the crowd.
 
Many also pointed to recent revelations over persistent anti-Semitism in right-wing student fraternities which count prominent FPOe politicians as members.
 
“There's the spectre of right-wing extremism today in Europe,” 70-year-old Monika Salzer, founder of the “Omas gegen Rechts” (“Grannies against the Right”) activist group, told AFP.
 
 She added that she was worried Austria could develop into a “guided democracy, in the style of [Hungarian Prime Minister] Viktor Orban”.
 
She pointed to a recent controversy over raids at Austria's domestic intelligence agency by a police unit headed by an FPOe official as proof that the FPOe wanted to control state institutions. The FPOe denies this and says it rejects anti-Semitism and racism.
 
Organisers put turnout at the rally at 8,000, with police counting 3,400.

ECONOMY

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

International business owners in Vienna bring in billions of euros in revenue and taxes each year, according to a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce.

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna's economy

New figures show that Vienna’s international entrepreneurs do more than simply boost diversity in Austria’s capital city – they also significantly contribute to the local economy.

The Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce) has revealed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs.

Plus, these companies pay around € 3.7 billion every year in taxes and duties, reports ORF.

READ MORE: Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can’t vote

Walter Ruck, President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies with a migrant background not only enrich the diversity of the corporate landscape in Vienna, they are also an economic factor.”

Ruck added that more than 200 international companies move to the capital each year and said the diversity is helping Vienna to financially recover from the pandemic. 

The Chamber of Commerce considers a business owner to have a migration background if they were not born in Austria and/or they have a non-Austrian nationality.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

According to ORF, there are 34,000 entrepreneurs in Vienna with a migration background and 7,400 of those business owners have Austrian citizenship.

Additionally, 4,500 business owners have Slovakian nationality, 3,800 are from Romania and 2,600 have German citizenship.

The most popular business sector for people in Vienna with a migration background is retail, followed by real estate and technical services.

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