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Austria's president and chancellor clash over sheltering refugees

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By euronews
Austria's President Alexander van der Bellen / FILE PHOTO
Austria's President Alexander van der Bellen / FILE PHOTO   -   Copyright  AFP

Austria's president has called on European nations to provide shelter for Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban rule, contrary to statements made by the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Speaking at the Europe Forum in South Tyrol, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said;

"I believe that there is a legal, a moral, and a political obligation of the European Union and its member states to step up to our responsibility which includes offering shelter to people. This includes offering asylum."

"Austria, as argued by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has indeed done a lot so far in taking in Afghan refugees as well," Van der Bellen said in a discussion after his speech. But he added that was "irrelevant" in the matter.

Kurz was one of the first European leaders to publicly announce being against accepting any additional refugees from Afghanistan.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who was also at the event, supported her Austrian counterpart Van der Bellen.

"There is no doubt that Europe is now standing at a crossroads faced with such current and future challenges," she said. "Our current development blueprint is outdated.”

At least 12,000 people have been evacuated since the start of the rescue efforts. In addition, the UN's refugee agency says more than 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced since January.