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Today in Austria For Members

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday
A woman lights up a cigarette (Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash)

The number of people denied entry to Germany from Austria rises, cigarette probably triggered a fire in Hospital Mödling, and more news from Austria on Wednesday.

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  • The number of people denied entry to Germany from Austria rises

German federal police have turned back significantly more foreigners at the borders with Austria and Switzerland since the second half of 2022 than before, the newspaper Der Standard reported.

In response to a query from Clara Bünger, the refugee policy spokeswoman of the Left Party, the German government disclosed that 3,063 unauthorised entries were recorded at the border with Switzerland in the first quarter of the current year. Among these cases, rejections occurred in three out of four instances. 

Data obtained by Deutsche Presse-Agentur revealed that approximately 62 per cent of the 3,674 individuals whose unauthorised entry was detected by the federal police and border police authorities at the border with Austria were also turned back. In contrast, there were only three rejections at the border with Poland, according to the federal government.

In order to prevent unauthorised entry into Germany, foreigners can be directly turned back at the border or deported to another country if they are deemed illegal entrants. This can occur at land borders, sea borders, or airports. 

Last year, 25,538 individuals were turned back at the German border, representing a significant increase compared to previous years. In addition, the number of refoulements (the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers) at the Austrian border rose notably during the summer, while the trend at the Swiss border began in October. In the first quarter of this year, a total of 4,681 refoulements were reported.

In a previous government response to a question from the Left Party, it was revealed that attempted entry without a valid travel document or an entry ban were among the primary reasons for refoulement. Bünger, the Left Party representative, expressed concern about possible illegal actions by the German federal police, particularly at the border with Austria, and called for an investigation by the German Interior Ministry.

READ ALSO: Tents for asylum seekers stir debate in Austria

  • What cost-of-living payments could residents in Austria receive in June?

As cost-of-living continues to rise in Austria, people in the country can expect several one-off payments and subsidies next month. Here's what you need to know.

  • Tobacco consumption on the rise in Austria

Consumers of nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and tobacco heaters still represent a small percentage of nicotine addicts in Austria, although data on this topic is limited. However, their share is increasing significantly. 

According to a recent survey conducted by Gesundheit Österreich (GÖG), the proportion of individuals using e-cigarettes or tobacco heaters on a daily or almost daily basis has risen from two percent in 2020 to six percent in 2022. Additionally, 23 per cent of people in Austria use smoking or electronic inhalant products daily or almost daily, accounting for nearly a quarter of the population. The GÖG survey included responses from over 6,700 individuals across Austria and aimed to be representative of the population.

In Vienna, the Addiction and Drug Coordination Agency provides survey data specific to the capital city. The findings indicate that e-cigarette and snus (a tobacco product placed between the upper lip and gum) consumers are primarily young people. In the 15 to 34 age group, nine per cent use e-smoking products regularly, while eleven per cent use them occasionally. Two per cent of individuals in this age group use nicotine pouches daily, and seven per cent use them occasionally. This age group has the highest proportion of users among all age groups.

A spokesperson from GÖG mentioned in an interview with Der Standard that after a long-term decline in traditional smoking, an increase had been observed following the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, 20.3 per cent of the total population in Austria were daily or almost daily smokers, compared to 17.2 per cent in 2020. Notably, there has been a significant increase among young women in particular.

READ ALSO: How Austria plans to curb cigarette smoking

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  • Cigarette probably triggered fire in Hospital Mödling

Based on the evidence, fire investigators believe a cigarette started the fire at the Mödling Regional Hospital. Three patients died in the fire on Tuesday morning, one of whom may have smoked a cigarette, according to an ORF report.

Fire investigators from the provincial and federal criminal investigation departments have determined that a technical defect was not the cause of the fire.

The fire originated in a four bed room at 0:54 a.m., resulting in the deaths of three men. It is believed that the fire started from the bed of a 75-year-old man who was a heavy smoker, according to police spokesman Stefan Loidl. The room's window had been tilted for ventilation.

Fortunately, the fourth man was in the hallway at the time, which saved his life. However, the smoke spread rapidly, causing mild smoke inhalation for another woman. The rescued patients were promptly triaged and distributed to other wards and nearby hospitals. Anette Severing, head of anesthesiology, who was present at the scene, praised the "superhuman" efforts made during the incident.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, fire chief Markus Groll stated that no technical defects were noticed during the hospital operation. The fire alarms in the affected room had activated promptly, according to the fire departments. This raises the question of why the three men were not rescued in time.

In an interview with ORF Lower Austria, Konrad Kogler, CEO of the Provincial Health Agency responsible for the local clinics, described the fire as "explosive." He explained that despite the fire alarms going off in quick succession, the fire spread rapidly, leaving the three men in the room with little chance of survival. Even with the fastest response, it is likely that their rescue would have been nearly impossible given the circumstances, he said.

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  • Is Austria failing to provide care for special needs children in schools?

Teacher's unions have warned the Austrian federal government of the extreme labour shortage and special needs education sector budget caps.

Union leader Paul Kimberger has highlighted the urgent need for support in special education within schools, emphasising the need for increased resources tailored to current conditions rather than being restricted by outdated regulations. 

In an interview with the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, Kimberger stated, "The schools urgently need help in the area of special educational support". He demanded "an increase in special education resources adapted to real needs and not limited by a scurrilous legal cap that has nothing to do with reality."

READ MORE HERE.

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