Chechens Blamed for Violence, Rape

VIENNA -- Austrian right-wing politician Joerg Haider called on Saturday for an immediate moratorium on granting asylum to immigrants from Chechnya, blaming some already in the alpine country for violence and sex crimes.

In a harshly worded statement, Haider -- the former leader of the far-right Freedom Party -- accused the Austrian government of carelessness in approving roughly 70 percent of all applications for asylum sought by people fleeing Chechnya.

Haider accused Chechen asylum seekers of "excessive violence" in the southern province of Carinthia, where he is governor, and blamed Chechens for a rise in rapes and other sexual assaults in the province of Upper Austria.

Chechens, Haider said, have "a heightened potential for violence" and should not be readily admitted into Austria.

He also took aim at Austrian authorities, citing what he contended is "the complete failure of Austria's Interior Ministry, which is responsible for Austrians' security."

Ministry officials were unavailable for comment over the weekend.

Haider said it was "incomprehensible" that Austria granted asylum to more than 2,000 Chechens last year. At the same time, he said, neighboring nations such as Slovenia did not approve a single application.

He said more Chechens were reaching Austria and applying for permission to stay now that European Union border controls have been dismantled along the country's borders with relative EU newcomer nations Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Haider, who founded the somewhat more moderate Alliance for the Future of Austria in 2005, is best known for mocking Jews and praising some of Hitler's policies while he was at the helm of the Freedom Party.