Migrant policies dominate new Austrian government agenda

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Controversial headscarf law extended as well as migrant detention law overhaul

Jan 2, 2020

January 2, 2020

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Austria's new Conservative and Green government launched its coalition programme on Thursday with a raft of tough migration measures that showed the continuing impact of the 2015 surge in newcomers to the European state.

The joint plan unveiled by reappointed chancellor Sebastian Kurz included a new "integration" ministry and a revamped classroom programme for migrants to benefit from German language and skills training.

Headline measures also included extending the age for a ban on headscarves in schools from 10 years to 14 and a new power for the security forces to apply "preventative detention" to migrant centres.

Mr Kurz's first term saw the 33-year-old govern in tandem with the far-right Freedom Party. Following a general election late last year his centrist Austrian People's Party has now aligned with the Greens and said the theme of the new administration will be to "protect the climate and the borders".

Greens leader Werner Kogler said his party had accepted the migration agenda of its partners as the pair set out to green the tax system. Tax cuts are planned for all income levels but there will also be new energy-related levies on businesses.

The revival of a controversial plan for preventive custody of potentially dangerous individuals, even if they have not committed a crime, is likely to trigger intense debate. The idea first emerged under Mr Kurz's last government after a fatal stabbing allegedly committed by an asylum seeker in February.

Vienna is also set to open a number of "return centres" to hold failed asylum seekers and other illegal immigrants, another radical policy developed in the wake of the spike in migrant arrivals five years ago.

Mr Kurz also declared new initiatives would be brought forward to cap the influence of Islamist extremism and political front organisations.

A climate package would include a countrywide public transport ticket to reduce private vehicle use ahead of an eco-tax reform that would tie corporate tax relief to carbon reduction.

Updated: January 2, 2020 06:21 PM

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