Austria determined to shut the door on migrant influx

Feb 24, 2016

Austria determined to shut the door on migrant influx


 Austria wants not only to crimp the influx of migrants pouring into Europe but to fully stop it, its interior minister declared today as she convened a meeting of ministers from Western Balkan nations. Greece _ which was not invited _ blasted the gathering as “hostile.''
Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner's (pictured, left), comments reflect Austria's defiance of EU criticism and concern about the thousands of asylum-seekers that have pushed daily against the country's southern border. 

Austria's immigration problems are minor, however, compared with fellow EU member Greece. More than 102,500 have crossed the sea to its islands so far this year.

More than 1 million people reached Europe last year _ most landed in Greece first.

Austria has recently capped the number of asylum-seekers it will accept daily at 80 refugees and limited the number of refugees it will let pass through the country _ creating a bottleneck of refugees that is hurting nations further south, such as Greece.

Greece was highly critical of today's meeting in Vienna, which was attended by the interior and foreign ministers of EU members Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria, as well officials from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

“Our country's non-invitation to this meeting is perceived as a non-friendly act, as it creates the impression that some, in our absence, want to initiate decisions that affect us directly,'' Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said. “[This is] yet another extra-institutional initiative that violates the letter and the spirit of the treaties of the European Union and international law on refugees.''
Athens objects to what it sees as Austrian-led attempts to leave it alone to handle the migrant burden.

The EU says Austrian caps on refugee numbers are illegal.
Germany is sending conflicting signals on the subject. Its interior minister says his country won't put up in the long term with other nations simply waving migrants through to Germany, and is objecting to the number that neighboring Austria is allowing to transit. 

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains focused not on border controls but on Turkey, from where hundreds of thousands have crossed to Greece, as key to resolving Europe's immigration crisis.

Mikl-Leitner shrugged off the concerns from Greece and the EU. She told reporters Austria is still in favor of a common EU solution to the migrant problem but the EU needs short-term “national measures'' in the interim to stanch the flow. 

“It is important and necessary to stop the flow of migration along the Balkans,'' she told reporters. “We need measures that can be implemented together with the Balkan states.''

Defending the need for the meeting, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told reporters the Greeks “are only interested in transporting the refugees as fast as possible to central Europe.''
Along with Austria, countries on the migrant route to western Europe already have introduced stricter transit rules in the past weeks. –AP
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