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The Austrian government has announced plans to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public, part of a raft of measures to contain the rise of the far-right Freedom Party.

The plan -- which would ban the burqa, niqab and other face-covering veils -- echoes calls made last month by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a similar ban in Germany.

It also comes amid growing concerns of harassment against Muslims around the world following US President Donald Trump's temporary ban on citizens from some Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

The Social Democratic Party and the Austrian People's Party, which rule in a coalition, released a 35-page document outlining its vision for Austria as an "open society that requires open communication."


"Full-face veils in public places are the opposite of that and will be banned," the document said.

Any ban would need the parliament's approval to be enforced.

The document says that Austria was introducing the reforms to ensure the "state presents itself in a world-open and religiously neutral manner," adding that civil servants in uniform, as well as judges and prosecutors, should show religious neutrality in the way they dress in public. 


The government will also try to force asylum-seekers and some migrants to sign an "integration contract and a declaration of values" and agree to "strict sanctions" if the contract is violated. It will seek to reinforce border controls, increase police presence and tighten asylum procedures.

The document is an 18-month plan that will take the government, led by Chancellor Christian Kern, up to the next elections, likely to be held in 2018.

The ruling parties are facing a rapid rise in popularity of the far-right euroskeptic Freedom Party, which has campaigned against what it sees as the Islamisation of the country, calling for "zero migration" and a boost to border security.

France became the first European country to officially ban the full-face veil in 2010. Bans are also in place in Belgium and some parts of Switzerland, while other European countries have debated the issue.

- CNN

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