Reuters International

VIENNA (Reuters) - A building in northern Austria that was due to house dozens of asylum seekers was deliberately set on fire, the Red Cross said on Wednesday, a rare case of violence against a refugee centre in a country that has taken in a large number of migrants.

The new wooden building in the town of Altenfelden, near Austria's borders with Germany and the Czech Republic, caught fire overnight. The Red Cross, which owns the building, later confirmed arson was the cause.

"It was a shock for us," Red Cross spokesman Stefan Neubauer said, adding that 48 people had been due to move into the building in two weeks' time. "It was an act of vandalism with which we have not been confronted yet."

Wooden buildings are being used as a cheaper form of accommodation in Austria, which last year took in 90,000 asylum seekers, more than 1 percent of its population, and has scrambled to house them in decent conditions.

Europe's migration crisis has heightened public concerns about security and jobs, fuelling a rise in support for far-right parties in Austria, Germany and other European countries.

Despite the growing popularity in Austria of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, whose presidential candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly lost a run-off election last week, violent attacks on new immigrants and centres for them are rare.

"We want to build a new house on the same site," Neubauer said, estimating the damage at 300,000 euros ($335,190).

($1 = 0.8950 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; writing by Francois Murphy; editing by Gareth Jones)


 Reuters International