Austria Says EU Migrant Redistribution ‘Has Failed’, Refuses Asylum Seekers


Austria’s Europe minister has said that the EU’s compulsory migrant redistribution scheme “has failed” and member-states should be able to choose whether to accept migrants or not.

While some 150 non-governmental organisations have put pressure on Austria to accept Middle Eastern migrants stuck in Greece because of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, two government spokesmen have said that Austria will maintain its current policy and not accept any more asylum seekers.

“It remains a no,” confirmed Claudia Türtscher, the spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), according to Kronen Zeitung.

Ms Türtscher referred the media back to Chancellor Kurz’s remarks from last month when he warned against the European Union transferring any migrants from Greece and attempting to redistribute them across the political bloc.

“If the European Union allows these people to enter, millions will be on their way,” the 33-year-old Austrian premier said last month, insisting that the best course of action for his country is “to support Greece as best as possible and to send a clear message as an EU”.

“If we take in the people who Erdoğan sends to the border, it won’t stay at 13,000. Then millions of people will set off,” he explained.

When Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the gates to Europe, allowing thousands of migrants to push their way into Greece, in late February, Austria called the move an attack on the European Union and asserted that it would not accept a single illegal alien.

Instead, Austria sent special police forces to Greece to help local authorities maintain the border and repel illegals.

The Austrian people back Chancellor Kurz’s stance, with a poll from March revealing a clear majority (61 per cent) reject taking migrants as part of an EU redistribution strategy.

Also on Thursday, Minister for Europe Karoline Edtstadler said that Austria does not want a new attempt to distribute asylum seekers and migrants in the EU, as Germany’s Angela Merkel had pressured European countries to do at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015-16.

“It is clear that the mandatory distribution of asylum seekers in the EU has failed,” Ms Edtstadler said on Thursday.

Since the EU’s failure to force all member-states to take migrants, the bloc has been trying to agree on a common asylum policy, which would see the management of mass migration through the obligatory acceptance of any and all migrants that touch EU soil.

Austria’s Europe minister said that she supports a “system of committed solidarity” whereby countries can choose how they want to contribute to the bloc’s asylum programme. Under her recommendations, countries can either accept migrants; contribute personnel to the EU’s border force, or just contribute financial aid.

The Austrian minister’s remarks come as the bloc’s top court ruled that Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland had broken EU law by refusing to comply with the migrant quota programme.

In January, before the onset of the second migrant crisis, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán had hailed Austria’s Kurz as a “natural partner” in the fight against illegal mass migration.

On March 1st when Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer confirmed that his country would repel any migrants trying to enter their country, he said that he relied on neighbouring Hungary to stop the flow.

“Hungary has assured us that it will protect its borders as best it can, like Croatia’s,” Mr Nehammer told broadcaster ORF, according to Reuters.

“Should, despite that, people reach us, then they must be stopped,” he added.

Austria’s political parties also did not join 11 other countries that wrote a letter to the European People’s Party (EPP) euro-group demanding Mr Orbán’s pro-borders Fidesz party be expelled from its ranks in the European Parliament.

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