Far-right crimes keep rising in Austria, hit new high in 2016

by Reuters
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 12:23 GMT

VIENNA, June 14 (Reuters) - Radical far-right crimes in Austria rose to a new high in 2016, continuing a sharp increase in the previous year, following the arrival of huge numbers of mostly Muslim migrants, a government report said on Wednesday.

Authorities recorded 1,313 incidents related to far-right radicalism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, up almost 14 percent from 2015, which also saw a record-high, the Interior Ministry said.

Around 40 percent of these acts take place on the internet, said Peter Gridling, director of Austria's domestic security agency. The rest include physical attacks on people and property, different types of incitement and threats or the sale and wearing of Nazi memorabilia.

Austria received around 130,000 asylum requests in 2015 and 2016 after large numbers of migrants and refugees, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, arrived in the traditionally Roman Catholic country of 8.7 million people.

"There is still no end in sight for anti-asylum agitation and aggression motivated by far-right radicalism despite the falling numbers of asylum seekers," the report said.

Gridling said greater sensitivity and awareness among citizens and the authorities about far-right radicalism played a part in more crimes being reported.

"(Due to) these two factors, the blind spots in this area are being successfully reduced and the true extent of this phenomenon is becoming apparent," Gridling told reporters.

"The number of criminal acts has also risen because far-right extremist noises and attitudes no longer emerge only on the margins but they also move into the middle of society."

The migrant crisis has boosted support in Austria for the right-wing, anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO), which might enter government as part of a coalition with a centrist party after snap elections in October.

But at the same time, many Austrians pride themselves on the near absence of violent attacks on centres for asylum seekers in their country, a contrast to cases seen in neighbouring Germany. (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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