VIENNA — Austria has decided to grant citizenship this year to about 5,000 Soviet Jews who came here after choosing against settling in Israel, an Austrian official said today.
"They had their Soviet citizenship revoked before they left the Soviet Union and they are not accepted back, though some of these people would like to return there," said Gerhard Ziegler, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
"We allowed them to stay here for humanitarian reasons," he said, adding that they carried no passports.
Some of the Jews, who settled in Austria during the course of several years, reportedly cited physical hardships as reasons for not settling in Israel.
"In Israel it's too hot, people live crowded together in a small country," the Austria Press Agency quoted an unidentified spokesman for the Jews as saying.
Trouble Finding Jobs
The agency quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying many of the Jews also found life in Austria difficult because they often have trouble finding jobs.
The Austria Press report cited examples of large families living in cramped apartments and children having difficulties adapting to life in Austria and learning German.
The authorities said granting Austrian citizenship should pose no legal problems for most of the 5,000 Jews who have lived here for more than five years.
Ziegler said that according to Austrian laws, citizenship can be granted to any foreigner under special circumstances after a stay of five years in the country.