Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

Austria proposes to offshore EU asylum

  • Migrants at the Brenner pass on the Italy Austria border (Photo: Alice Latta)

Austria is seeking to create a new set of EU asylum rules that would offshore applications and impose entry caps for each EU state.

The move aims to overhaul existing EU asylum legislation in what Austria's defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil described as being in a "failed" state in an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper.

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"It's about ending the failed European asylum policies. We must admit to ourselves and be honest that the EU has limited capacity to absorb more migrants. We must stop illegal immigration," the social democrat minister told the paper on Thursday (5 January).

Doskozil wants the application process to instead take place in centres in countries like Niger and Jordan, possibly run by the United Nations.

People entitled to protection would then be sent to an EU state. Doskozil said it would also allow people who cannot afford to travel to the EU to claim asylum to instead apply at the centres.

They would also be used to dispatch migrants with return orders, but who are stuck in the EU.

EU states conducted around 200 return operations by air between January and November last year, but the majority of rejected asylum seekers still remain in the EU. Many are unable to return because their countries of origin refuse to accept them.

Matthias Ruete, who directs the EU commission's home affairs branch, told MEPs last December that the lack of coordination among EU states and "insufficient detention or closed reception capacity" slowed the return process.

Doskozil wants to send them packing to "protection zones" attached to the centres until further notice.

Germany mulls 'flexible annual targets' on asylum

The Doskozil plan also envisages member states imposing their own caps, despite German resistance. Last year, Austria announced an asylum claims cap of 37,500.

German chancellor Angela Merkel refused any upper limit on asylum claims, despite resistance from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party.

The CSU, a sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), wants an annual 200,000 limit.

The CDU now appears to be more open to the idea ahead of the upcoming federal elections in Germany.

According to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the CDU has "floated the idea of flexible annual targets for asylum seeker numbers."

Doskozil is set to present the plan to his counterparts at the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) club in February before promoting the idea in Brussels.

The regional forum brings together ministers from Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

He also told the CEDC last November that the EU needed to prepare for a possible collapse of the EU-Turkey migrant swap deal.

The migrant pact saw Turkey curb the number of refugees getting into Greece, but Ankara has repeatedly threatened to suspend it amid fraying EU relations.

EU asylum return focus expands police scrutiny

EU interior ministers agreed to start legislative talks with the EU parliament to expand the scope of an asylum database, Eurodac, to include migrants and stateless people.

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