ZURICH - Austria stuck on Saturday to its hard line on sending home Afghans whose requests for asylum fail even as Taliban insurgent advances prompted other European Union countries to reconsider similar stances.
"It is easy to call for a general ban on deportations to Afghanistan, while on the other hand negating the expected flight movements. Those who need protection must receive it as close as possible to their country of origin," Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told the APA news agency.
Austria was one of six EU countries that insisted last week on their right to forcibly deport rejected Afghan asylum seekers. Three of the countries -- Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands -- have since changed course.
The Oesterreich newspaper published an opinion poll showing up to 90% of respondents backed the Austrian government's line.
It linked the support to a high-profile criminal case in June in which four Afghans in Vienna are suspected of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl who lost consciousness and died.