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Austria: Arsonists set future asylum-seeker shelter on fire

9.6.2016 6:38
The truck in which dozens of dead refugees were found on 27 August 2015 in Austria. (PHOTO:  Repro video
The truck in which dozens of dead refugees were found on 27 August 2015 in Austria. (PHOTO: Repro video

A wooden building in the north of Austria near the Czech and German borders that was supposed to become a shelter for asylum seekers was set on fire last week. According to representatives of the Red Cross, which owns the building, the fire was set by arsonists.

Police have confirmed that information. According to the Austrian Press Agency (APA), police officers recorded 25 various attacks on migrant housing last year, but this is the first such fire.

The new wooden building in the Upper Austrian village of Altenfelden, about 13 kilometers south of both the Czech and German borders, caught fire during the late night hours of 1 June. Roughly 100 firefighters responded at around 2 AM on 2 June.

"This was a shock for us," Stefan Neubauer, spokesperson for the Red Cross, said. In approximately two weeks, 48 migrants were scheduled to move into the building.

"This was an act of vandalism the likes of which we have never encountered before," Neubauer said, adding that the organization will attempt to erect a new building at the site. He estimated that the blaze caused up to EUR 300 000 in damage.

Austrian Police confirmed the humanitarian organization's information, adding that they had succeeded in finding the two starting points for the fire near one of the building's outer walls. Reportedly no accelerant was used.

As to who perpetrated the crime, there are no clues as of yet, police said. Austria accepted 90 000 migrants last year, or one percent of the local population. At the beginning of this year, however, Vienna significantly tightened the country's conditions on applying for asylum.

In Austria what the Czech News Agency is calling the migration "crisis" has, among other things, caused a growth in support for the populist, right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). Its presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, narrowly lost at the end of May against the former chair of the Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen.

According to the official electoral results, Hofer lost by a mere 30 863 votes. Still, attacks against asylum-seekers' accommodation in Austria have been rather exceptional, especially when compared to the number committed in Germany.

This is the very first time such attackers have set an accommodation facility on fire in Austria. Most of last year's attacks involved rock-throwing or threats, according to the APA, and a man in Upper Austria also attacked migrants using an airsoft pistol. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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arson attack, Asylum, Austria, azylový dům, refugee, Xenophobia


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