Sunday 20 October 2019

Austria uses language barrier to cut benefits


Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: Reuters
Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: Reuters

Jorg Luyken

Foreigners who have moved to Austria but have not yet picked up the language are to be penalised under controversial reforms to the country's social welfare system, as the right-wing government steps up its efforts to deter immigration.

The Austrian government plans to penalise the unemployed by cutting €300 from their monthly benefits if they do not fulfil certain language requirements.

The far-right Freedom Party (FPO) reforms would target immigrants and ethnic minorities in several ways.

A sizeable cut in welfare payments to families with more than two children is likely to hit migrant families, while local authorities will also be compelled to tell the government how many welfare recipients are from ethnic minorities.

Previous attempts at legislation have fallen foul of EU law, which requires EU citizens to be treated equally to citizens of the member state.

However, Vienna believes the new legislation will be given the green light by the European Court of Justice, as it also applies to Austrian citizens.

"Reform of the benefit system is urgently required because we have massive immigration into the system," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Irish Independent

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