Austria Rejects EU Migrant Quota, Blocks All Asylum Requests: 'It Remains a NO'
Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz warns his country's borders are closed to refugees
Austria has confirmed that it is rejecting migrant quotas imposed by the European Union and warns that its borders will remain closed to all asylum seekers.
The Austrian government says it is maintaining its strict policy on migration and not accepting any more asylum seekers, despite orders from the EU.
The announcement follows pressure from some 150 NGOs, who are demanding the country opens up its border to Middle Eastern illegal migrants stuck in Greece during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Claudia Türtscher, the spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), confirmed that Austria will reject all asylum applications.
“It remains a no,” Türtscher said in a statement, according to Kronen Zeitung.
Türtscher was referring to Chancellor Kurz’s earlier warning to the EU against transferring illegal migrants from Greece and redistributing them across member states.
“Millions of people could embark on their journey to Europe if the Turkish-Greek border falls or if they get the impression that they will be able to pass,” Kurz said last month.
Kurz described moves by Turkey's President Recep Erdoğan as an attack on the European Union.
Late last week, Minister for Europe Karoline Edtstadler said that Austria refuses to repeat the migrant crisis situation of the years 2015 and 2016.
During the crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and subsequently the EU as a whole, forced all member states to redistribute migrants based on a quota system.
The country is against any new attempts at a similar common asylum policy.
“It is clear that the mandatory distribution of asylum seekers in the EU has failed,” Edtstadler said.
Since the quota system’s failure, the EU has been trying to agree on an asylum policy to manage mass migration through obligatory acceptance of all migrants that enter the bloc.
Austrian Chancellor #SebastianKurz, the world's youngest leader, has begun converting refugee reception centers into “departure centers” as the country prepares to deport #migrants from #Austria.— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) March 6, 2019
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Austria’s Minister for Europe stressed that it is essential for every member state to choose how it wants to contribute to the joint asylum program based on a “system of committed solidarity” instead of quotas.
According to Edtstadler, countries could thus decide whether to accept migrants, send personnel to contribute to the EU’s border protection, or just send financial support.
Edtstadler’s remarks came as the EU Court of Justice ruled that Hungary, Czechia, and Poland had failed to fulfill their obligations under EU law when refusing to accept a share of 160,000 migrants that were meant to be distributed across member states.
Top Czechs politicians marked the verdict as irrelevant, for example.
“The only point is that we will not accept any migrants and that the quotas have expired in the meantime, especially thanks to us,” said Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
Hungary has the same attitude towards migration quotas as Austria and the Czech Republic.
"The ruling has no further consequences," Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said in a statement.
"Since the quota decisions have long lost their validity, we have no obligations to take in asylum seekers."
Already in January, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hailed Austria’s Sebastian Kurz as a “natural partner” in the fight against illegal mass migration.
Kurz has consistently backed Hungary on migrant quotas and in a joint meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, already called for an end to migrant quotas in 2018.
Austria, along with Poland, recently sent over 100 border police to the Greek border to contribute to Greece's border defense.
Polling also shows that a majority of Austrian's back Kurz's stance on migrants, with 61 percent saying they reject the EU's quota approach to migrant distribution.