Austria’s government surged to power late last year with a promise to stop illegal migration and crack down on refugees, and its latest move is to target their phones.
Asylum seekers will be forced to hand over their mobiles so the authorities can check their identities and where they have come from, the cabinet has agreed.
If an applicant is found to have previously entered another EU country where the “Dublin regulation” is in force, they could be sent back there. Under the Dublin rule, people typically have to seek asylum in the first EU state they reach.
In 2015, at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, over 90,000 people applied for asylum in Austria, more than 1% of the country’s population.
Initially the refugees were welcomed, but the mood in the country quickly changed.
Support for the far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party – then in opposition – grew, and Austria’s centre-right conservative People’s Party, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also campaigned strongly against migration.
These days, since measures were introduced to try to close of the Balkan route, the number of migrants reaching Austria has dropped significantly.
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In the first three months of this year, 3,992 people claimed asylum in Austria, compared with 14,400 in the same period in 2016.
But the government is continuing with its hard line.
It wants to end what Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, of the Freedom Party, calls “abuse” of the asylum system.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Sebastian Kurz, from the centre-right conservative People’s Party, campaigned against migration
The bill does not just target mobile phones. It will also allow the authorities to seize up to €840 ($1,037; £730) in cash. The money will be used to pay for the upkeep of migrants as they wait for their asylum claims to be processed.
Austria is not alone. Denmark, Germany and Switzerland have also permitted the confiscation of valuables belonging to refugees to pay for their stay. In Denmark, some reports suggest the authorities have not received large amounts of money from the policy.
“We have very deliberately set ourselves the goal of fighting against illegal migration but also against the misuse of asylum,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.
The bill, which must now be passed by parliament, would also force hospitals to tell the government when asylum seekers will be discharged, to ensure effective deportations.
And the measures mean that refugees will only be able to apply for Austrian citizenship after 10 years, as opposed to six years which is currently the case.
Image copyright Business-Powers.com Image caption Human rights groups have criticised the Austrian government’s plans (file photo)
Deportations of asylum applicants convicted of crimes will also be speeded up.
Opposition parties and human rights groups have condemned the plans.
Amnesty International said the plans to seize phones was “a completely disproportionate interference in people’s private affairs”, and that displaced people were being lumped together as cheats or a security risk.
It said the only thing the bill achieved was to create more “uncertainty and mistrust among the population”.
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
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Doodoowatch ‘poo-shaming’ map gains UK council interest Image copyright Tash Scott Image caption The updated map shows red dog icons where mess has been seen and green ones where it has been cleared, along with the location of bins
A village “poo-shaming” scheme designed to combat dog fouling could soon be seen across the country.
Residents in Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, hit the headlines with the interactive map showing the locations of unwanted deposits.
Creator Amanda Carlin said media attention had drawn interest from as far away as Kuwait.
In response, a “how-to” pack has been created and sent to about 60 councils and community groups.
The scheme, dubbed Doodoowatch, encourages users to report dog mess sightings.
Once logged, the poo’s location is marked on an online map, alerting public-spirited locals or the district council’s street cleaning team.
Mrs Carlin and other dedicated doodoo-watchers have made an instruction manual to help others join the fight against faeces.
It includes advice on how to engage the community in the project, create a map and signage, liaise with authorities and deal with negative social media comments.
Doodoowatch guides have been sent to more than 60 councils and community groups as far afield as Cornwall, Yorkshire and Sussex, Mrs Carlin said.
She said she was “delighted that others have been inspired by what we have done, and that we can help them at no charge”.
Image copyright Amanda Carlin/Tash Scott Image caption The guides show others how to set up a similar scheme in their own area
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Call to save military airfields from closure Image copyright Business-Powers.com
Fifteen military airfields have been earmarked for closure over the next six years with the potential loss of thousands of jobs, MPs have warned.
The all-party group on general aviation says they are a vital national asset which once closed will never be replaced.
Most of the airfields, which are used by private pilots and flight training firms, will be sold off for housing.
The government said the sites will be used to help the local economy.
The all-party group has written to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, urging him to consider keeping them open for private planes and allowing them to be brought back into military use if needed.
The group’s chairman, Conservative MP Grant Shapps, said general aviation – the name given to all non-commercial flying – was worth £3bn a year to the UK economy, citing government figures.
“At a time when the UK and our allies are facing significant global threats and uncertainties,” said Mr Shapps, MPs were “deeply concerned” to see the Ministry of Defence disposing of military aerodromes across the country.
He claimed air traffic control and flight training firms were moving their operations abroad due to a lack of airfields in the UK – and the planning system meant it was effectively impossible to build new ones.
Mr Shapps, a former housing minister, holds a pilot’s licence – he said he recognised the need to build more new homes but the airfields were “large sites” that could retain runways and outbuildings.
The airfields earmarked for closure are:
Abingdon, Oxfordshire Alconbury, Cambridgeshire Arbroath, Angus Brawdy, Pembrokeshire Chivenor, Devon Colerne, Wiltshire Dishforth, North Yorkshire Halton, Cheshire Henlow, Bedfordshire Mildenhall, Suffolk Molesworth, Cambridgeshire North Luffenham, Rutland Wethersfield, Essex Woodbridge, Suffolk Wyton, Cambridgeshire
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said around £300m is planned to be spent on key RAF sites across the UK.
He said that a defence minister will “be pleased to meet” with the parliamentary group on aviation.
The spokesman added: “Where airfields are no longer required, we will work closely with potential buyers and the local council to make sure that the sites’ future use best meets the needs of the local economy, including providing thousands of much-needed new housing or their potential for use as civilian airfields.”
Real ale drinkers asked to embrace change Image copyright Business-Powers.com
For nearly 50 years, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has promoted real ale over other drinks – such as lager.
But if new proposals are approved, Camra could start engaging with all beer drinkers, “irrespective of what they choose to drink”.
The result of the vote will be announced on Saturday at their AGM. To pass, 75% need to be in favour.
Camra’s leadership recommended changes to the organisation’s aims following a “root-and-branch review”.
The objectives of the changes include:
To play a leading role in the provision of information, education, and training to all those with an interest in beer, cider, and perry of any type To act as the voice and represent the interests of all pub goers and beer, cider and perry drinkers To promote and protect pubs and clubs as social centres as part of the UK’s cultural heritage
Announcing the plans earlier this year, Camra said: “While continuing to advocate that real ale is the pinnacle of the brewer’s craft, the campaign’s wider focus [if approved] will mean all drinkers who enjoy a range of beers, ciders and perries will feel welcome in the organisation.”
Real ale usually comes from a hand pump, and is conditioned in a cask. Proponents say it has a fuller flavour than other beers.
Image copyright Business-Powers.com
The vote is being held at the organisation’s AGM in Coventry.
Camra chairman Colin Valentine said: “We recognise that the beer and pub landscape has changed and continues to evolve, and our place in that landscape has changed as well.
“We’re determined to make sure that we continue to change and evolve so that we are relevant to drinkers of all types and continue to offer a compelling reason for people to join our organisation.”
National pub campaigner, and former Liberal Democrat MP, Greg Mulholland opposes the changes.
He wrote on his Facebook page: “If the revitalisation plans go through Camra will not be a campaign for anything but a vague ‘we like any ‘nice’ beer and cider club’.”
But what do other members of Camra think? Here are two people from opposing sides.
‘It’s not the 70s anymore’
Image copyright Ash Corbett-Collins
Ash Corbett-Collins, 26, joined Camra when he was 20 – after a friend’s dad introduced him to the taste of real ale.
The perception of Camra is that we believe real ale is great and everything else is rubbish. That’s a perception the new proposals are trying to change.
Real ale will always be our primary focus. We’re not going to suddenly start campaigning for Fosters.
But we need to let people know that we won’t be on our high horse and look down on them if they order a lager.
99.9% of Camra members enjoy other beer, know other people do, and have no problem with that.
We should be a welcoming organisation for people who enjoy a drink and want to make sure that pubs stay open.
It’s not the 70s anymore. When you walk into the pub the choice isn’t between mass-produced foreign lager or the dying embers of real ale.
These days good and interesting beers exists outside of real ale. If someone is selling blueberry and salted caramel beer that’s something I want to try.
If tomorrow’s proposals pass that will bring Camra into the 21st Century and help on the next generation of volunteers.
Anytime I tell someone I’m a member of Camra straightaway it’s “beards, bellies and flip flops”. I’ve got the beard but not the belly or the flip fops. That may be to come.
‘Campaign for any old beer’
Nick Hair, 24, runs the Kentish Belle Ale House and has also been a Camra member since he was 20.
We want to campaign for real ale. We don’t want to campaign for craft beer.
Craft beer could be anything. Even Fosters could describe themselves as craft beer.
If the members vote in favour, Camra will become the voice of all pub-goers – including the people who get comatose-drunk on Jagermeister.
It will no longer be the Campaign for Real Ale but the Campaign for Any Old Beer Down The Boozer.
The national executive of Camra are trying to stay relevant by changing everything they believe in.
If we want to stay relevant we need to look at ways of attracting more young people, looking to the digital age, and giving free entrance to under 25s at festivals.