EU Fails to Adopt Austria’s Most Radical Proposals on Tackling Migrant Crisis

EU Fails to Adopt Austria’s Most Radical Proposals on Tackling Migrant Crisis

The Interior Ministers of the EU member states have failed to agree upon the most radical proposals for coping with the migrant crisis that have been put forth by Austria, the country presenting holding the rotating Presidency of the European Council.

Austria took over the rotating Presidency of the European Council from Bulgaria on July 1, 2018, and is set to preside over the Union for the next six months.

It’s Interior Minister, Herbert Kickl, announced earlier this week that Austria would try to change the migration policy of the European Union so that it would be impossible for migrants to seek asylum on EU soil.

Its proposals were put forth at the first EU Interior Ministers meeting of the Austrian Presidency in Innsbruck but the representatives of the member states failed to reach a firm agreement on the most radical ones, AFP and France24 report.

Before the meeting, Kickle and two of his counterparts, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, and Germany’s Horst Seehofer, formed a controversial “axis of the willing” agreeing on the need to protect the external borders of the European Union, though some disagreements remained between Germany and Italy on the return of asylum seekers.

“[There has been] a very wide consensus on the need for protecting the EU’s external borders”, including the strengthening of EU border agency Frontex, Austria’s Interior Minister Kickl said after the meeting of the EU Interior Ministers in Innsbruck.

In his words, his colleagues agreed with the idea of establishing “disembarkation platforms” for migrants in accordance with international law and in a way “which is helpful to relations with third states”.

The “disembarkation platforms” idea, which the EU leaders agreed to consider at an emergency summit held in Brussels in June, are theoretically supposed to be located in North Africa.

However, countries from the region as well as Albania, which is in the Western Balkans, one by one have ruled out hosting such facilities.

Nonetheless, speaking alongside, his Austrian counterpart, Germany’s Interior Minister Seehofer expressed optimism that an agreement with a third country could still be reached. He cited the 2016 migration deal between the EU and Turkey as an example of cooperation on the thorny issue with a country from the Union’s neighborhood

Austria’s more radical proposals have not been welcomed by all. These include establishing “return centers” outside the EU for people who have been refused asylum but cannot be immediately repatriated to their home country.

According to Kickl, the “return centers” idea had been “discussed” and judged with a “reasonable” possibility.

“Does anybody know one country out of Europe, in the periphery of Europe, that is willing to host such a camp? I don’t know so far. Let’s wait, it’s just an idea,” EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters before that.

“[This idea] shouldn’t be discussed by civilized Europeans”, argued Luxembourg’s Interior Minister Jean Asselborn before the meeting. He insisted that Europe had a “duty” to provide protection to genuine refugees.

Another of the most hardline proposals of the Austrian government, namely, making it impossible for asylum seekers to file asylum requests on EU soil, was also barely mentioned after the meeting.

This idea provides for seeking asylum from refugee camps outside the EU to “a sort of mobile commission”.

(Banner image: Video grab from Ruptly)

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