Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Austria drafts anti-asylum law

  • Austria is a main transit country for asylum seekers hoping to reach Germany (Photo: Alice Latta)

Austria has finalised a draft law to prevent asylum applications once an upper limit has been reached.

The government earlier this year introduced an annual 37,500 cap. The so-called emergency decree finalised on Tuesday (6 September) would prevent most people from applying for asylum once that threshold is met.

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The controversial law is set for a parliament vote in about a month following a review. It is likely to pass.

The move aims to further curb asylum claims over broader fears of a repeat from last year when almost 90,000 applicants were filed in the country. Around 29,000 applications have been filed in the first seven months of this year.

Der Standard, an Austrian daily, also reported that some 2,200 soldiers could be deployed at the borders should refugees arrive en masse.

Austria's self-imposed cap was followed by a closure of the so-called Western Balkan route earlier this year. The border closures stranded more than 50,000 people in Greece.

Austria had also initiated plans to erect a barrier along the Brenner Pass with Italy over the summer but halted construction following widespread protest.

Border security and guards have since been stepped up on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass.

Austria has largely served as a transit country for people hoping to lodge asylum claims in Germany. Some 700,000 passed through last year. It is still, however, one of five main destination countries in the EU for first time applicants.

But broader concerns over asylum and immigration have underpinned striking gains by the country's far-right Freedom Party's (FPO).

FPO's Norbert Hofer is leading polls ahead of a presidential run-off on 2 October.

Austria's tough asylum law follows similar measures proposed in Hungary and Denmark.

Some 10,000 Hungarian police and soldiers patrol long stretches of razor-wire fencing along the border with Serbia.

The troops escort asylum seeker caught within 8km of the fence back to the Serbian side of the 175km border following a law passed by the Hungarian government in July.

In late August, Hungary's government had also announced it would erect a second fence on the Serb border alongside the existing one.

Denmark in late August had also floated a plan to grant police the powers to turn back asylum seekers at its borders, if deemed necessary.

Some 21,000 people had applied for asylum in Denmark in 2015. Those figures have since dropped sharply. Around 4,700 have registered this year so far.

In January, the Danish government had also passed a law that would allow authorities to confiscate valuables from arriving asylum seekers and refugees.

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Balkan leaders said in New York there would be no repetition of last year's mass influx of refugees, as the EU prepares to launch a new border force to keep people out.

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June

Divisions on relocating asylum seekers remain entrenched following an EU summit. The east-west divide opens up the possibility of relying on a majority vote for a key asylum in June, further exacerbating disputes among opposing capitals.

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The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

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