Swim­ming les­sons for mi­grants cause storm in Austria

Pakistan Observer - - PAGE 07 -

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

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