More than nine in 10 people taking part in a referendum have rejected construction of an asylum seekers’ centre.

Residents of the southern Burgenland districts of Jennersdorf, Güssing and Oberwart were asked yesterday (Sun) whether they supported plans by Interior Minister Maria Fekter of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) to build a centre for asylum seekers in the town of Eberau in Güssing district.

It was announced last night that 94.45 per cent of those taking part in the referendum had voted against it – which would be the third in Austria. Around 28 per cent of residents took part in the vote.

In a referendum on the same question, more than 90 per cent of participating residents of Eberau said they disapproved of construction of such a centre.

Fekter has faced harsh criticism as she failed to inform residents and provincial politicians before revealing the plan.

The minister claimed the economically weak region would benefit from a centre since its construction and operation would create jobs, while political rivals accused her of conducting a "cloak and dagger operation".

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Governor Hans Niessl praised the result of yesterday’s referendum as a "victory for democracy and rationality.

"People have proven that they don’t want politicians making decisions over their heads," he added.

The current debate of the issue is expected to give Niessl and his party a boost in the 30 May provincial election in which the SPÖ wants to keep its absolute majority.

ÖVP Burgenland officials branded the SPÖ’s decision to hold the referendum in all three districts despite the clear result of the Eberau vote last month an "election campaign gag".

Johann Tschürtz, head of the right-wing Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) Burgenland branch. said "poor participation" was a "belly-flop" for the SPÖ. He added, however, that his party agreed with the outcome.

Fekter said last week it might not be necessary to build a third centre for asylum seekers, considering the diminishing number of applications.

The minister, however, added that figures needed to be monitored "at least until summer" before a decision was made.
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