Austria says Germany could follow its border clampdown on migrants

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said he expected Germany to clamp down on the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said he expected Germany to clamp down on the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country.PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said Wednesday (Feb 17) he expected Germany to follow his tougher migrant stance and clamp down on the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country.

Vienna announced Tuesday it would step up controls at existing checkpoints along its southern borders with Italy, Slovenia and Hungary to slow down the influx of migrants and refugees trekking up along the Balkans. Last month, Austria warned it would limit this year's number of asylum seekers to 37,500 - sharply down from the 90,000 it accepted in 2015.

The ruling centrist coalition also plans to impose this week a daily migrant limit at its main border crossing with Slovenia.

"A government must take decisions based on reality," Faymann said in an interview published by the Kurier newspaper Wednesday.

"We have done this and I believe we have set an example that Germany will also set shortly," he added.

In 2015, over one million people reached Europe's shores - nearly half of them Syrians fleeing a civil war that has claimed more than 260,000 lives. The vast majority enter the EU through Italy and Greece, where they should register, but poor controls mean most are able to continue their journeys to northern Europe.

Faymann said Austria still supported a deal proposed by Germany, under which Turkey would seal its borders and then fly refugees to Europe where they would be settled under an EU quota system. But in the face of the plan's sluggish implementation, Vienna has also joined the so-called "Visegrad Four" - Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - which want tighter border controls inside the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.

On Thursday, Faymann and his German counterpart Angela Merkel will host talks with nine EU countries and Turkey in Brussels, hours before a summit involving all 28 bloc leaders.

"I would like for Turkey to take stronger actions against migrant people smugglers... and for Turkey and Greece to strike a deal to return rejected migrants," Faymann told the Kurier.

But he added: "we must also prepare tougher border measures" in case the EU efforts fail.