You are on page 1of 4

6/26/2018 Austria to push hardline migration policy in EU presidency | Financial Times

EU immigration
Austria to push hardline migration policy in EU presidency
Plan shows some refugees would be required to file claims before entering the bloc

Migrants wait to cross the Slovenia-Austrian border. © AFP

Michael Peel in Luxembourg and James Politi in Rome YESTERDAY

Syrians, Afghans and African nationals seeking refuge in the EU would have to file their asylum
applications before entering the bloc under radical migration proposals put forward by Austria’s

The plan shows the hard line that Austria will champion when it takes over the bloc’s rotating
presidency on July 1. It would also highlight a shift away from the EU’s existing asylum system,
where “frontline” Mediterranean states such as Italy, which receive most migrant arrivals, have
long argued that they shoulder an unfair burden.

At a “mini-summit” of EU leaders on Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called for
“radical change” in how the EU deals with asylum claims. Sunday’s meeting, convened on the
initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, failed to make headway. More clashes are expected
at a full EU leaders’ summit in Brussels this week.

The Austrian document underscores how the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, which
includes the far-right Freedom party, wants to use the country’s six-month EU leadership to push
for a tough response to the political crisis over migration.

Austrian officials said the paper was intended for discussion and was drawn up by the interior
ministry of interior, which is headed by the Freedom party’s Herbert Kickl. 1/4
6/26/2018 Austria to push hardline migration policy in EU presidency | Financial Times

European Council President Donald Tusk (R) and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna last Friday. Austria plans to
take a hard line on asylum applications when it takes over the bloc's rotating presidency on July 1 © EPA
The paper decries “fundamental weaknesses” in the EU’s external border and floats proposals
including the “development of a new, better protection system under which no applications for
asylum are filed on EU territory”, with only limited exceptions.

It says action is needed to deal with the arrival of uneducated lone young men from regions
“characterised by patriarchal, anti-freedom and/or backward-looking religious attitudes”.

The Austrian idea expands plans under discussion at EU level to build camps in north Africa to
send migrants saved at sea, after Italy’s refusal this month to accept a rescue ship with more than
600 people on board.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister and the head of the far-right League who sets the country’s
immigration policy, said on Monday that Rome would back EU plans to set up reception and
identification centres for migrants on Libya’s southern border, on his first visit to Tripoli since
taking power.

But Ahmed Maiteeq, Libya’s vice-premier, quashed the idea, saying it would be against domestic
laws and “categorically rejected”, showing how difficult it can be to secure approval from source
and transit countries in Africa for specific measures to curb migration to Europe.

Vienna’s strident approach to migration policy has rattled some EU officials, who fear it will be
unwilling or unable to act as a broker when it chairs meetings of member states.

“The migration crisis of 2015 and its consequences left many people with the impression
that political elites and the EU as a whole have lost control of the situation,” says the Austrian
document, which has been prepared for an informal gathering of bloc internal security officials
next month and seen by the FT. 2/4
6/26/2018 Austria to push hardline migration policy in EU presidency | Financial Times

“Only by combining sound external border protection with an effective common asylum policy will
it be possible to prevent illegal migration while granting protection to those in most urgent need of

Another of the paper’s possible objectives is to send failed asylum claimants already in the EU to a
facility in a country outside the bloc — a proposal already raised this month by Mr Kurz and Lars
Lokke Rasmussen, his Danish counterpart.

It is unclear if the Austrian proposals would comply with asylum law. The European Commission
warned on Monday that sending people who had already entered the EU to centres in third
countries without processing their asylum claims risked breaching international rules.

The Austrian document also suggests EU countries offer vulnerable people protection outside the
EU and “as close as possible to crisis regions”. This is likely to be cheaper and lead to “fewer
problems related to different ways of life and values”, the paper adds.

Recommended The paper generally paints a grim — and contentious

— picture on the integration of migrants, echoing the
Europe-wide rhetoric of populist and far-right
parties. It warns that the backgrounds and “poor perspectives” of “smuggled individuals” who
make it to Europe and stay there means they “repeatedly have considerable problems with living in
free societies or even reject them”.

“Among them are a large number of barely or poorly educated young men who have travelled to
Europe alone,” the paper says. “Many of these are particularly susceptible to ideologies that are
hostile to freedom and/or are prone to turning to crime.”

The document warns that the negative impact of “prevailing weaknesses in the fields of external
border protection and asylum” will probably “continue to be felt for many years to come”.

“As experience with immigration from regions that are characterised by patriarchal, anti-freedom
and/or backward-looking religious attitudes has shown, problems related to integration, safety and
security may even increase significantly over several generations,” it says.

One of Mr Salvini’s goals on his Libya visit was to preserve strong ties to local officials held by
Marco Minniti, his centre-left predecessor, who helped engineer a sharp fall in migrant departures
from Libya and arrivals in Italy.

A pillar of Mr Minniti’s strategy was to empower the Libyan coastguard to prevent migrant boats to
leave Libyan territorial waters. Just last weekend, about 1,000 migrants were pushed back to the
Libyan coast. 3/4
6/26/2018 Austria to push hardline migration policy in EU presidency | Financial Times

As Mr Salvini travelled to Libya, more than 300 migrants rescued with the help of Mission Lifeline,
the German non-governmental organisation, remained stranded in the Mediterranean Sea on two
separate boats with Italy refusing to grant them docking rights.

Axel Steier, a Lifeline official, said in a radio interview that the organisation had asked France and
Spain to offer their ports in the absence of any authorisation from Italy. Germany and the
Netherlands had refused to take in the migrants, he added.

Additional reporting by Jim Brunsden in Brussels

Twitter: @Mikepeeljourno

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Latest on EU immigration 4/4