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Austria Mulls Welfare Cuts for Non-German Speaking Foreigners, Refugees

© AP Photo / Kerstin JoenssonRefugees wait on a bridge after police stopped them at the border between Austria and Germany in Salzburg, Austria, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015.
Refugees wait on a bridge after police stopped them at the border between Austria and Germany in Salzburg, Austria, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. - Sputnik International
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government has taken a tougher stance on asylum-seekers and refugees in a bid to halt the migration flow into the country.

Austria’s right-wing coalition has announced its modified plans to cut benefit payments for foreigners, including asylum-seekers, who don’t speak German for five years.

“The fundamental rule we will introduce is that German will become the key to accessing the full minimum benefit. That means that whoever has insufficient language skills will not be able to claim the full minimum benefit,” Chancellor Kurz told a press conference.

According to the plan, the pay would be capped at 563 euros ($656) per month, and would increase to 863 euros ($1000) a month if an individual passes a German-language test.

“Freedom of establishment is the freedom to work in all of Europe. Freedom of establishment is not the freedom to seek out the best social benefits system and in that sense this waiting period is in my opinion a step in the right direction,” Kurz said, referring to the government’s previous benefit reform, stipulating that anyone claiming the main minimum benefit must have lived in Austria for five of the last six years, which was blocked by the Constitutional Court in March.

Earlier this week, in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Kurz suggested that the EU’s border patrol guards be deployed to Africa to stem illegal migration flows to Europe. The Chancellor said that he was concerned that EU refugee quotas to distribute migrants around the member-states were unrealistic.

READ MORE: Merkel, Kurz Clash Over Refugees During First Meeting in Berlin

In April, Kurz’s government proposed harsher measures against asylum-seekers, including seizing their phones to check their identity, crime record and determine the country of origin. The bill also included quicker deportations for those who commit crimes, even children; perpetrators are supposed to be sent to detention centers for deportation after they serve sentences.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz speaks during a news conference after an informal ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, in Mauerbach nar Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Last December, the right-wing coalition unveiled its plans to introduce financial “sanctions” for refugees and migrants who prefer to preserve their own culture instead of “integrating” into Austrian society.

During his election campaign in October 2017, Kurz put the fight against illegal migration high on the agenda; as a result his Austrian People’s Party (OVP) won the support of 31.5 percent of voters in snap parliamentary elections.  Kurz was sworn-in as chancellor when OVP reached a consensus with Heinz-Christian Strache’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) on the formation of a coalition government.

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