Two Austrian schoolgirls have been stopped as they attempted to travel to Syria to join jihadist group ISIS. The girls, both of whom were born in Austria, have said that they planned to go as they didn’t like Austria, The Local has reported.
The girls, aged 14 and 16, were to be joined by a third teenager whose mother grew suspicious thanks to the large amount of luggage she was planning to take and stopped her from leaving. After questioning her daughter, the mother called the police who were able to apprehend the other two girls.
The younger girl is known to live in foster care, whilst the older is the daughter of two Iraqi immigrants who have lived in Austria for 20 years. It is not clear how the girls were radicalised.
Around 130 Austrians are believed to be fighting in Syria with jihadist forces, more than half of whom are originally from the Caucasus region, living in Austria on a valid residence permit.
The news comes in the same week as Bavaria’s state premier Horst Seehofer called for the Schengen agreement, which dissolves borders between EU states and allows for free movement across the continent, to be suspended. The German state is coping with a swathe of refugees and asylum seekers who travel across the Mediterranean into Italy, and then through Austria and on into Germany.
The Local reports that Austria’s Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner has acknowledged that the numbers travelling through into Germany constitute a “substantial problem,” and that cross border controls may be worth consideration.
Seehofer’s CSU party, which are allied to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, has drawn up a seven point emergency program which includes reinstating the border controls. A spokesman for the party has admitted to The Local that the program was not yet party policy as it was yet to be ratified at a party board meeting.
And it has come under fire from the CDU, with Peter Hauk, leader of the CDU group in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament saying: “To tighten borders would be a sign of powerlessness and a confession that the authorities in Germany don’t work fast enough.”
Doubt was also cast on the plan by Austria’s interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who is against the idea as she is concerned about the impact it would have on tourism. Instead she favours a quota being placed on the number of refugees that EU member states pledge to take in.
17,000 people applied for asylum in Bavaria last year, Bavarian government figures show, with 600 arriving illegally at Munich’s main train station in June and July of this year alone. Many towns in Bavaria have complained that they are being overburdened with asylum seekers and refugees, although the UN High Commissioner recently lavished praise on Germany’s refugee policy, citing it as “an example for other European countries to follow.”