Austria's welcome mat for migrants just got considerably less welcoming

When Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was poised to rise to power in that nation, President Alexander Van der Bellen of the left-leaning Green Party advised him to “form a government committed to the European Union and human rights.” It was a not very veiled message about Austria’s policies regarding migrants and refugees, a contentious issue during the recent elections. Those instructions clearly didn’t sink in very well. Kurz’s People’s Party was aligning with the decidedly right-wing Freedom Party and some new policies announced this week demonstrate a substantially different view of the migrant situation.

Under these new marching orders, migrants attempting to enter the country will face new entry requirements and an enhanced vetting protocol which includes surrendering their phones, as well as forfeiting cash to help pay for the cost of supporting migrant populations. (Daily Wire)

The new government in Austria, made up of the Conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party, both pledged to crack down on immigrants to the nation. And they’ve put their promises into practice.

“Phones will be seized upon entry, allowing border officials to analyze mobile data to determine migrants’ identities,” the Express newspaper reports. “Money will also be taken from migrants and put towards the cost of caring for people arriving in the country. And benefits will be stopped for some migrants who have not yet ‘paid into’ the country.”

The move comes as European Union Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos writes that “Europe’s Migrants Are Here to Stay.”

This is yet another move in the ongoing battle between different factions in the EU over open border policies and endless immigration. Of course, this fight has been going on for a while now. You may recall that the Green Party President, Alexander Van der Bellen, is only in office because the liberals in Austria were knocked out of the 2016 elections in the first round and had to form a coalition with him. In the runoff, he barely defeated right-wing candidate Norbert Hoffer in a race so close they had to hold the election twice. Hofer was a Freedom Party candidate who was pushing policies precisely like the ones mentioned above, and while he failed to take the presidency, his campaign clearly set the stage for Kurz’s remarkable rise to power as one of the youngest national leaders in Europe.

Seizing the phones from migrants attempting to enter the country will raise some hackles, but it’s probably seen as a sensible way to verify the identity of the new arrivals as well as checking on who they may have been in contact with. Taking their money to pay for the care and feeding of new arrivals will likely drive the Angela Merkel faction nuts, but Austrian mayors have already been complaining about how the swelling number of migrants has pushed their available resources to the breaking point.

I ran across one interesting side-note today while looking into this story. Kurz no doubt has plenty of enemies and critics in Europe, but they seem to include at least one person who does some editing at Wikipedia. I was looking up a bit of background information on the Chancellor this morning and when I checked his Wiki entry I was shocked to read that he had just died today. An anonymous user with the IP address had updated the page to reflect the 31-year-old leader’s untimely demise. That entry has now vanished, but I saved a copy of the page. (Click on thumbnail for full-size image.)

I don’t know if Kurz needs to be watching his back more than any other government leader, but clearly there are some folks out there who aren’t wild about him.

The original article was edited to correct the author of the update to he Wikipedia page for Chancellor Kurz. The editor originally listed had made an unrelated edit the day before. We regret the misidentification.