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Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-08-01 11:11:14
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Controversy as Austria plans to deport 1,000 Nigerians

A controversial agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Austrian government, allegedly signed last week, to deport 1,000 Nigerian asylum seekers from the European country has received knocks from stakeholders who questioned the propriety of the treaty. But Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry yesterday distanced itself from the said treaty allegedly signed in Abuja. The ministry’s spokesperson and acting director (public communication), Ogbole Amedu-Ode, told LEADERSHIP that his office was not “formally” aware of the development. Going by a monitored report, the Nigerian ambassador to Austria, Maria Oyeyinka Laose, allegedly led an Austrian high delegation to Nigeria and signed the purported treaty. The report citing the Austrian Press Agency and Austrian newspapers added that the agreement was signed last week in Abuja by the Austrian vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, and Nigerian foreign affairs minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru.

In a swift reaction to the development, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the committee will make concerted efforts to peruse the contents of the said agreement to ensure that the interests of Nigerians in Austria are protected. Dabiri-Erewa however stated that she has not had the opportunity to go through the details of the document and cannot make any informed statement on it. “I cannot make any informed commentary if I don’t know the details of the agreement. However in all we do, the interests of Nigerians should be paramount,” she said.

A report by Uzoma Ahamefule, a Nigerian living in Vienna, Austria, entitled “Austria: Hurting Nigerians through diplomacy” states that Nigerian communities in Austria are calling on President Goodluck Jonathan and members of the National Assembly to come to their aid. The report reads in part: “The Nigerian people and government officials should go through the report again and envision in whose interest the treaty is trying to serve. What is the gain of the entity called Nigeria in this kind of treaty if not abuses, humiliations, pains and sorrows for her citizens? “This kind of embarrassing bilateral agreement only tramples on the rights of Nigerians.”
Ahamefule said on May 23, 2012, the father of a two and a half-year-old boy was reportedly arrested at his apartment in the morning and, by night, he was on a plane back to Nigeria. “Neither the ambassador nor any of her officers got in contact with the man to ascertain what he might have done,” Ahamefule said.


Austria gives go ahead for circumcisions

Doctors in Austria’s westernmost province have been cleared to resume circumcisions after the Justice Ministry reassured them that they can perform the religious practice without risking criminal charges, officials said yesterday.

Spooked by a regional court ruling in neighbouring Germany that the practice supported by Muslims and Jews amounted to physical abuse, the governor of Austria’s Vorarlberg province last week advised doctors to suspend it, triggering a heated debate. Another state governor came out in favour of a national ban.

Austria’s Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders united in defence of circumcision on Friday, condemning calls to limit the practice as an attack on religion and demanding that the government clarify its legality. A letter from Justice Minister Beatrix Karl giving the legal all clear has now helped assuage concerns, a spokesman for Vorarlberg Governor Markus Wallner said.

“We only wanted to get legal certainty for doctors so they can be clear whether they face legal consequences if they perform circumcisions for religious reasons,” he said. Doctors still have to decide for themselves whether to perform such voluntary operations, which are not covered by the public health system, he added. A spokesman for Karl said the minister had simply put in writing to Vorarlberg state officials what she and her legal experts have said in public for days.


Austria church mounts billboard search for priests

European men take note. While unemployment is growing in much of the continent, a powerful international organization is now advertising vacancies in Austria for hundreds of white-collar jobs. Requirements: a sense of religious mission and a commitment to celibacy. Benefits: a possible inside track to Heaven. Seeking to repopulate its thinning clerical ranks, the Roman Catholic diocese of Austria's largest province launched a province-wide billboard campaign Tuesday meant to recruit priests.

Nuns are welcome as well. And the posters are also looking for part-time help — laymen and women prepared to dedicate at least part of their life to Catholic religious and social service. Such mass advertising for priests is rare anywhere — and the decision of the Lower Austrian diocese to turn to it now reflects fears that the Catholic Church in this country many soon not be able to carry out its mission due to the lack of clergy.

Austria formally remains an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, with more than 64 percent of its people declaring themselves as church members. But many are Catholics in name only. Like elsewhere in much of Europe, Masses are poorly populated in Vienna and other bigger cities and the number of declared Catholics is shrinking — in Austria by 13 percent since 1960 — as former believers fed up with church scandals and a perceived sense of the Vatican's disconnect with the world flee in droves. At the same time, however, the number of priests has dropped even more sharply — in Austria by 26 percent. In St. Poelten, Lower Austria's provincial capital, 244 priests are administering to the needs of believers in 423 parishes. Country-wide, the overwhelming majority of priests are over 60, and young replacements are scarce.

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