Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has urged Germany to set a clear limit on the number of asylum seekers it will accept to help stem a mass influx of refugees that is severely testing European cohesion.
The comments by the Social Democrat to the Kurier newspaper threaten to make even more complicated an emergency EU summit with Turkey on Monday on handling the worst refugee crisis in generations.
Austria – the last stop before Germany, the top destination for migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond – has already come under fire from the European Commission and human rights groups for capping its own intake of refugees.
“Germany too must give a number for the refugees it is prepared to take from the Syria and Turkey region. Germany must finally create clarity or else refugees will continue to head off in the direction of Germany,” Faymann was quoted as saying.
“If you take the Austrian guidelines, Germany could give its quota at around 400,000. As long as Germany does not say that, it is clear what will happen. The refugees will continue to believe that they will be waved through.”
Austria, a country of 8.5 million people, got 90,000 asylum requests last year and has curtailed the number this year while imposing daily limits on the numbers it processes.
Faymann said Monday’s summit was set to decide three things: improving cooperation with Turkey to fight human smugglers and return rejected asylum seekers, ending a policy of waving through refugees, and agreeing on a system for EU members to absorb asylum seekers with the help of the U.N. refugee agency.
In a separate newspaper interview, Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said Austria did not want to take part in any quota system for distributing refugees among European countries because it had done enough on its own.
“We are taking the lion’s share and taking in 37,500 asylum seekers this year alone. Now the others are called upon. Why should Austria take refugees from Greece? That would send the wrong signal,” Doskozil told the Oesterreich newspaper.
Vienna has repeatedly called for a quota system, saying many countries that are net recipients of EU funding had to step up and do their share to resolve a difficult situation with thousands of people stranded on Greece’s border with Macedonia.
In Switzerland, the NZZ am Sonntag paper said Switzerland was set to take in 600 asylum seekers from Greece who had been registered by Greek authorities and had a good chance of being allowed to stay in the neutral Alpine country.
Although Switzerland is not an EU member, the Swiss government agreed last year to take in 1,500 asylum seekers under an EU relocation programme.