Austria Cuts Social Benefits To Stem Migrant Tide

Mass migration becomes a major issue in this month’s election as right-wing Freedom Party surges in polls.

Three out of Austria’s nine states have decided to cut welfare payments for migrants arriving in the Central European country. The provincial governments believe that reducing welfare benefits would discourage illegal migrants from settling in the country, Reuters news agency reported. The measure received wide political support at the national level, with even the country’s left-wing Chancellor Christian Kern partially endorsing the move.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the floodgates of Europe by inviting millions of migrants to her country by suspending the border controls dragged Austria into the middle of the Migrant Crisis. The Balkan migration route, a preferred land passage used by migrants from the Middle East trying to settle in generous European Welfare States, runs right though Austria. Though Germany remains the top destination for these migrants, Austria saw a record rise in its migrant numbers during this period as well.

Illegal immigration has become a major issue in this month’s Austrian parliamentary election. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), a leading opponent of the EU’s Open Border Policy, is expected to win up to 25 percent of the vote, as recent polls suggest.

The United Nations slammed the rolling back of welfare provision for migrants, calling the step taken by Austria’s regional governments a violation of “international and European law.” The Reuters news agency reports:

Three of Austria’s nine provinces -- Lower Austria, Burgenland and Upper Austria -- have reduced benefits for new arrivals. Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, leader of the conservative People’s Party which is leading in the polls, wants to make similar cuts apply to the whole country.

Chancellor Christian Kern, whose Social Democratic Party polls show competing with the Freedom Party for second place, has resisted the idea but said he could support them in cases where new arrivals turn down job offers. (...)

The three provinces have cut benefits for new arrivals, even after obtaining asylum, to around 570 euros ($669) a month, less than half the poverty threshold of 1,200 euros, compared with around 850 euros for an Austrian who has never lived abroad.

While Chancellor Merkel continues to rule out limiting the number of migrants coming into her country, Austria wants to prevent a repeat of the 2015 migrant stampede. The country recently moved soldiers along its border with Italy to prevent illegal border crossings. Troops were also deployed along the border region to look for migrants.

According to a study published earlier this year by the prestigious Vienna Institute of Demography, within one generation Islam is poised to surpass Christianity in Austria’s capital, Vienna. A separate survey commissioned by the city of Vienna showed what a Muslim-majority Austria could look like. The researchers found that nearly one-third of the Muslim youth in city held Radical Muslim views and “sympathized” with Islamic terrorism.