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Austrian official suspected of selling residence permits to migrants

A corrupt Austrian official, working for the Lower Austrian Foreign Office of the Federal Office for Foreign Affairs and Asylum (BFA), is suspected of having sold residence permits to migrants and refugees.

Published: April 25, 2017, 9:45 am

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    According to a report in the Saturday edition of Die Presse, the allegedly corrupted official was in charge of issuing residence permits, demanding up to 2,500 euros for a single permit.

    The residence permits were sold to the refugees and migrants from the refugee camp in a town of Traiskirchen, located in the district of Baden in Lower Austria.

    The State Prosecutor’s Office for Economic Crime and Corruption confirmed the existence of an ongoing investigation. According to spokeswoman Ingrid Maschl-Clausen, the official is suspected to be involved in the acts of bribery and corruption.

    The allegedly corrupted official was suspended in late in 2016. The number of residence permits sold is assumed to be in the “single-digit range”. If suspicion of bribery turns out to be legitimate, the asylum seekers involved would have to repeat their process of obtaining a legal residence permit.

    “An employee was questioned on the basis of suspicion of corruption,” Maschl-Clausen told Krone. The chief suspect in this case is the former director of the Office. He was an administrative officer of the Regional Directorate and was supposed to have sold asylum and residence titles. Known as K, the official was suspended in 2016, after his machinations were reported.

    Currently, although the number of suspected cases are still few, so-called refugees who are accused of having paid bribes will form part of the criminal procedure.

    Finally, the long-time head of Traiskirchen, Franz Schabhüttl, has made serious accusations against aid organisations and warned that the state was becoming “the extended arm of thugs” and the NGOs who stand to gain from the refugee crisis.

    Politicians and relief organisations used the asylum system for party politics and their own interests, he said. Schabhüttl, the long-term head of the refugee camp Traiskirchen, exposed the “humanitarians” in his book Brennpunkt Traiskirchen, presented last month.

    Neither the image of the left nor the right correspond to the reality of the asylum system, Schabhüttl and co-author Andreas Wetz reported in their research from within the asylum system. Asylum seekers are neither “needy and poor” nor “from unsafe countries”. Both political camps deliberately distort reality. “The truth looks different,” said Schabhüttl at the launch of the book.

    For example, NGOs such as Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Caritas in the summer of 2015, when the Traiskirchen Refugee Center (4746 refugees) was significantly overcrowded, told donors that the asylum seekers were hit by need, hunger and medical supplies. It was blatantly false, but had triggered a deeply human, but objectively unnecessary reflexes in the population. “We had to dispose of up to 50 tons of usable goods every week after the flood of donations were triggered at the expense of taxpayers,” says Schabhüttl.

    The mountains of donated food disappeared in refuse containers but there was a complete media black-out about the monumental waste. Schabhüttl pointed out at the time that there was no need for donations, because everything was in the camp, “but they did not want to hear it,” he said. Aid organisations act as large economic enterprises in financial self-interest.

    The only complaints about food were ethnic of nature anyway. “Asians like spicy food,” Sam, a 28-year-old refugee from Pakistan told VOA. “They have no spicy food here.”

    Migrants are mostly young, masculine and nocturnal, says Schabhüttl, who headed Traiskirchen for 13 years. He says there were no accute threats to life in their countries of origin, and most are just looking for a better economic environment.

    Their main problem was that the promises of human traffickers they had paid, had turned out to be lies, and many of them could no longer go home. For almost 40 per cent of all “refugees” in 2016, there was never an objective reason for escape, he says. Returning home would mean losing face.

    ORS, a subsidiary of a Switzerland-based enterprise, won the contract to manage all federal asylum-seeker facilities with Austria’s Ministry of Interior — a total of 38, according to the ministry. Walter Ruscher, of the Interior Ministry, said NGOs had bid for the contract, but that the cost of running Traiskirchen and similar facilities would have been twice as high. In the taxpayers’ interest, the government opted for the cheaper ORS.

    But Amnesty International called the conditions and treatment of the asylum-seekers “scandalous”.

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