Migrants and refugees protest against Austria’s controversial immigration policy

Photo On a crisp December morning in Vienna, about 1,000 people marched through a central square in protest against the country’s controversial Central European Universal Visa Restriction, or COVID, a controversial immigration policy introduced…

Migrants and refugees protest against Austria’s controversial immigration policy

Photo

On a crisp December morning in Vienna, about 1,000 people marched through a central square in protest against the country’s controversial Central European Universal Visa Restriction, or COVID, a controversial immigration policy introduced in July that limits the mobility of migrants and restricts the rights of people residing in Austria to work in other European Union countries.

The mostly middle-class marchers held banners reading “no press freedom” and “transparency” and chanted anti-EU slogans, The Local reported. A group of police officers outnumbered the crowd, but the crowd was small by European standards, about 600, and did not appear to be an overwhelmingly angry one.

Austria has become one of the loudest critics of the European Union’s open-borders policies, and the COVID policy has left it alone in a European Union of sometimes extreme national extremes. Critics say it is a discriminatory and unworkable policy that should be scrapped altogether, even if it ultimately leads to the political demise of the center-right government.

Michael Kerner, a former journalist and a legislator who co-founded a group opposing the COVID policy, told The Local the march was a “democratization march.”

The government of Sebastian Kurz, a member of the nationalist-right Freedom Party, made the COVID policy one of its flagship issues. It has been met with angry criticism from the opposition and migrants and refugees with family ties to Austria. Kurz has disavowed the COVID policy and has said it will be removed from the government’s legislative agenda.

“I think that the people of Austria were doing their duty in the protest,” Agnieszka Sandor, from the activist group SOIAHE, told the Mail Online. “The COVID just proves the hypocrisy of the far-right government. I think it is very good that the majority has spoken out.”

The latest polls show the Freedom Party’s polling is falling away. Another group opposes the COVID policy is calling for a referendum on the issue.

Read the full story at The Local.

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