Many think foreigners given preference, poll shows

More than four in 10 Austrians think immigrants receive preferential treatment compared to the country’s citizens, a new study has revealed.Pollsters IMAS said today (Fri) 42 per cent of the 1,000 Austrians they interviewed complained foreigners, asylum seekers and immigrants were treated better by authorities than themselves.The research results come just weeks after Viennese agency Karmasin found that 49 per cent of Austrians consider asylum seekers as “generally dishonest”. Its poll also showed that a majority of 53 per cent agreed with the claim that asylum seekers “are more criminal than other society groups”.People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Maria Fekter angered left-wing opponents recently by claiming she was “alarmed” by rising asylum application figures.The minister said around 800 foreigners asked for asylum in Austria every month between January and July. The minister – considered as a leading representative of the conservative ÖVP’s right-wing department – said she felt “justified” in her call for a law preventing asylum seekers from leaving Austria’s asylum centres for a certain period so officials can check their health and background.Fekter also caused an outcry by announcing she did not want “unskilled, illiterate farmers from some mountain villages” to settle in Austria.Austria has failed to get rid of its international reputation of being a mostly xenophobic country ever since the end of World War Two.Global criticism increased in the year 2000 when the ÖVP decided to form a government coalition with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) of Jörg Haider.Wolfgang Schüssel, who then headed the ÖVP, became chancellor despite making clear ahead of the 1999 election his party would go into opposition if it dropped to third place.The FPÖ overtook the ÖVP to come second behind the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Schüssel – who was chancellor until 2007 – is still attacked by rivals for “striking a deal” with Haider which worsened Austria’s imagine in the world.Schüssel defended himself by claiming he wanted to avoid the FPÖ becoming the strongest party in a possible re-election and therefore decided to team up with the right-wingers after weeks of fruitless negations with the SPÖ.Former Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel infuriated many Austrians at that time by urging people not to spend their skiing holidays in Austria to show their disagreement with political developments in the country.The FPÖ regained strength over the past few years after it suffered massive losses in various provincial elections following Haider’s decision to walk out and found the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) in 2005.Current FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache is regarded as his worthy political successor by most right-wingers, while the BZÖ still struggles to give itself a clear profile.IMAS also said today its poll found that a vast majority of 83 per cent agreed with the claim that “many things go wrong in Austria these days”.The agency announced 45 per cent claimed there was more corruption in the country nowadays than in the old days.With 66 per cent, two thirds criticise political leaders for “wasting taxpayers’ money”. Sixty-three per cent said managers were paid too much, and 52 per cent claimed banks should be controlled more tightly.