Swimming lessons for migrants cause storm in Austria
VIENNA—Swimming lessons for refugee children have whipped up a storm in Austria, with a lifeguard’s car window smashed and a newspaper on Friday filing charges against a woman who said the migrants should drown.
Local newspapers reported this week that the southern state of Carinthia was offering the courses free of charge for unaccompanied minors in order to prevent accidents in lakes and swimming pools this summer.
This provoked a torrent of what local politician called Heinz Kernjak called “ignorant and offensive” online comments, while an unknown assailant smashed the window of a van belonging to lifeguards in the town of Wolfsberg.
When national daily Kurier reported the story on Thursday, it provoked complaints — alongside messages of support — about the costs of the lessons to the taxpayer and how the courses would only encourage more immigration.
One woman even commented on Facebook that the migrants “should drown”, prompting the Kurier on Friday to file charges with the authorities, the first time it has done so for a comment on an article on the social media website.
“Because of the growing number of hate posts, Kurier will from now on be more rigorous in its efforts against hate posts and in bringing charges,” the daily said.
Austria last year received some 90,000 asylum requests, the second highest per capita in the European Union, resulting in a sharp rise in the number of racist attacks, although it lags well behind neighbouring Germany.
Last week police said that a fire that burned to the ground a recently completed but still empty refugee centre was likely caused by arsonists.
In May a suspected neo-Nazi was arrested and weapons were recovered at his home after telling friends he wanted to massacre migrants.
The influx has also boosted support for the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe), which on May 22 came close to winning presidential elections and which this week filed a legal challenge against the result.
FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Frauke Petry, head of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), on Friday held talks on the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, to discuss increased cooperation.
Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s National Front who will run for president in 2017, is due to meet Strache outside Vienna next Friday for an event dubbed by the FPOe the “Patriotic Spring”.—AFP