Austria’s much-admonished annual limit on refugees could be met by mid-August at the current rate of intake. The country has already welcomed over 50% of the 37,500 figure it set for 2016, with an increase in new arrivals predicted for the coming weeks. EurActiv Germany reports.
On 20 January, the Austrian government agreed that it would only accept a maximum of 37,500 refugees this year. In the years up to 2019, that figure will be reduced to 25,000.
The announcement, made by the then-Minister of the Interior, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, provoked strong disagreements within the ruling coalition, particularly from those factions that still advocated a welcoming culture towards new arrivals.
Former Chancellor Werner Faymann sought to reassure his party, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), that the new measure was just a guideline and not a fixed upper limit. However, under pressure from public opinion that began to sway towards a more restrictive refugee policy, Faymann was unable to save his job after a disastrous showing in the first round of the presidential elections.
The current Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, clarified that “regardless of asylum application date, we have processed 18,950 people this year”.
Given the current situation in southern Europe, immigration experts have forecasted a lot of movement over the next few weeks and have led to predictions that Austria could hit its limit as early as mid-August.
The official figures from Austria’s migration office make interesting reading, with 22,300 asylum applications filed as of 29 May and 12,261 have been approved. 10,039 applications were rejected, some 45% of applicants. Vienna’s figures for the year so far could be accused of being misleading, given that 6,689 people have had their applications approved, even though they submitted them in 2015.
Sobotka has called for emergency measures to be implemented, in order to make the asylum process more difficult. The new minister of the interior said that the issue was “beyond question”. However, Faymann’s successor, Christian Kern, insisted that he is not interested in creating a “state of emergency” any time soon.