Austrian Foreign Minster Sebastian Kurz claims that Europe has “lost control” of its borders and proposes harsher measures toward people smugglers and migrants.
Speaking at a meeting of European Union (EU) officials in Luxembourg on Monday, Mr. Kurz said: “We have lost control. At the moment we, the EU, do not decide who comes to Europe, the people smugglers do.”
The Austrian government is pushing for a European solution to the crisis which still sees migrants smuggled in lorries, boats and other vehicles by organised gangs of people smugglers in North Africa and Eastern Europe.
“We think that it urgently needs a European solution,” Mr. Kurz declared, warning that if the EU member states cannot agree to coordinate then Austria would be forced to act on their own, Kronen Zeitung reports.
The Foreign Minister was joined by Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka and Defence Minister Hanspeter Doskozil at the meeting. The ministerial trio laid out their vision for how the political bloc should act to stem the flow of migrants from the Middle East and, ever increasingly, from North Africa.
The plan states that migrants who take boats and inflatable dinghies to cross the sea should be allowed to land on islands but not allowed to leave. This aspect of the plan is similar to the Australian policy toward migrants who attempt to cross by boat into Australia and are either turned back or detained on several islands off the coast.
Migrants and asylum seekers would also be returned to “migration centres” in third party countries, likely in Africa, while their asylum claims were being processed. These “detention centres” would be jointly operated by both the EU and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). During the process the EU would look into more ways to create legal pathways for migrants to enter the EU in a more controlled manner.
The idea of detention centres for migrants in North Africa was leaked from an EU internal memo that revealed the bloc was already in the process of trying to negotiate the development of centres in Libya. Libya, being the main port from which migrants leave Africa to get to Europe, would be the natural location for the detention camps. Some have criticised these centres as being no different than prisons.
Mr. Kurz is optimistic over the plans saying: “If we succeed, we will regain control over immigration,” and said that the EU-Turkey deal should be a basis on which to negotiate with other nations like Libya.
“What is possible in Turkey and Greece, must be possible also with Italy and Libya,” he said. Using the Greek island of Lesbos, where migrants cannot leave to continue on through to mainland Greece, as an example, Mr. Kurz claimed: “That plan alone causes far fewer people to travel from Turkey to Greece — and even fewer to die.”
There is great pressure on the EU to stem the flow of migrants as many predict that the numbers attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe from North Africa will increase to potentially tens of thousands per week.