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IMMIGRATION

Austria rejects asylum seeker because he didn’t ‘act or dress’ gay

Austria has rejected the asylum application of an Afghan claiming to be gay because he did not "act" or "dress" like a homosexual, according to a media report.

Austria rejects asylum seeker because he didn't 'act or dress' gay
Participants in the 'Regenbogenparade' (Rainbow Parade) in Vienna, Austria, 2017. Photo: AFP

An official in Lower Austria state found no grounds for fear of persecution based on the sexual orientation of the 18 year-old, the Falter weekly newspaper reported.

“The way you walk, act or dress does not show even in the slightest that you could be homosexual,” the official reportedly wrote in his assessment rejecting the claim.

The official also found “potential for aggression” which “wouldn't be expected from a homosexual”, because the man fought with others in the charity accommodation that houses them.

The Afghan reportedly had few friends and liked spending time alone or in small groups, leading the official to question in his report: “Aren't homosexuals rather social?”

The official rejected the statement that the Afghan had kissed straight men, saying he would have been beaten if he had done so, the Falter reported.

The Afghan had said he became aware of his sexuality when he was 12 years old, but the official found that was “rather early” and so not likely, particularly in a society like Afghanistan “where there is no public sexual stimulation through fashion and advertisement”. 

The Afghan, who came to Austria alone as a minor, is appealing the decision, the Falter said.

Austria's interior ministry said Wednesday that it could not comment on the specific case, but that it was “not reflective of the (wider) reality”. Some 120,000 asylum claims have been decided on over the past two years, it added.

“Asylum-seekers must substantiate their reasons for fleeing. There are no concrete rules of proof, but the authorities must show if and why a claim was found to have been substantiated,” the ministry said in a statement, adding  “individual impressions” were significant in the interview process. 

It said the government is currently working with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR to offer further training on LGBT issues to “ensure quality” in the asylum evaluation process.

Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan's conservative, highly gender-segregated society.

 

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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