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04/12/2016

Austria attracts member state interest in its refugee policy

Justice & Home Affairs

Austria attracts member state interest in its refugee policy

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka wants the upper limit on refugees enshrined in the alpine republic's law.

[Pixel_lost/ Shutterstock]

This year, Austria expects to welcome fewer refugees than it predicted it would. The Vienna government wants to lower its upper limit on new arrivals as a result and it’s a policy that has attracted the attention of other EU countries. EurActiv Germany reports.

Austria’s government is divided on its upper limit on the number of refugees. Chancellor Christian Kern and Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil do not support enshrining the policy in law, while Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka thinks it is necessary to prepare for a potential new wave of arrivals.

There will be a sense of satisfaction in the interior and integration ministries that the Austrian model of registration and support has attracted the attention of other EU countries. Danish minister for immigration an Integration Inger Støjberg, during a recent trip to Vienna, inquired about certain political projects, including the upper limit and emergency decrees.

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Although Denmark receives far fewer asylum applications than Austria, Copenhagen plans similar measures. Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz explained to Støjberg that the work of his ministry is focused on providing advice and teaching values. An emphasis has been placed on the recognition of refugees’ professional qualifications in Austria.

Kurz and Støjberg said that Austria and Denmark share a common European history and that the two countries have been active in the European integration process.

The stated ambition of both governments is to now take the pressure off the EU’s external border and to make life as difficult as possible for smugglers and people traffickers to go about their business.

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Next year, Austria will reduce its upper limit to 35,000. The ruling SPÖ government’s left-wing is not happy with the restrictive policy being implemented though. However, the government’s self-imposed upper limit of 37,500 new arrivals is unlikely to be met this year, as only 30,266 applications had been filed by the end of October.

The decline in refugee numbers is largely due to the closure of the Western Balkans route, which was used extensively as a way into Central Europe. Since March, there has been no further organised transit, Interior Ministry spokesperson Karl-Heinz Grundböck told EurActiv.de.