- Austria to limit number of asylum claims
- Limit to be cut by half from 2015
- “This is Plan B” – Chancellor Faymann
Austria has announced plans to slash the number of asylum claims it accepts in 2016.
The number will be less than half those processed in 2015.
The government has announced what it calls a “Plan B” for dealing with the arrival of migrants and refugees in the coming year.
The government plan restricts the number of asylum claims to 1.5 percent of Austria’s population.
The total will be spread over the next four years.
Claims will be capped at 37,500 this year, falling annually to 25,000 in 2019.
Austrian Chanceller Werner Faymann also told journalists border controls will be stepped up “massively.”
However, he gave no details of how this would be achieved.
Mr Faymann also said he has discussed the plans “in principle” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and their counterpart in Slovenia.
He referred to it as a “second-best option” while Austria waits for a Europe-wide solution.
This, he said, would involve securing the EU’s external borders, setting up centres to process asylum applications and dispersing successful claimants across EU member states.
He denied that Austria is taking the easy option by saying it cannot accept everyone. “We have a fixed number, a calculable number, an approximate value that we can accept,” he said.
Last September, Austria and Germany opened their borders to refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Afghanistan and other conflict-torn regions.
Austria has a population of 8.5 million. Hundreds of thousands have arrived.
The vast majority crossed the country on their way to Germany. However, a fraction have stayed.
Around 90,000 people, just over one percent of Austria’s population, applied for asylum last year.
Public fears about immigration have fuelled support for the far right. Calls for a cap on numbers by the centre-right People’s Party in the governing coalition have grown.
Last week, the Austrian Interior Ministry said it would start turning away people who had been refused asylum in Germany.
What has Germany said?
Neighbouring Germany still favours a joint approach to the problem.
In response to the announcement from the Austrian government, Chancellor Angela Merkel said all countries want to significantly reduce the number of refugees arriving. “I think we should start with tackling the causes of migration and find a European solution. I am sure we will have an open and good debate on that,” she added.
Germany has borne the brunt of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War.
More than a million people arrived in the country in 2015.
Speaking in Davos, President Joachim Gauck says Berlin cannot take in everyone who arrives.
He added it would not be unethical to limit the numbers accepted.
What they are saying