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Austria seeks to curb economic migrants

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Refugees and migrants at the Hungarian border. File photo: APA
13:54 CET+01:00
Austria has announced that it will place six nations including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on its list of "safe countries of origin", as it seeks to curb the number of economic migrants.

The decision, which will also see Georgia, Ghana and Mongolia added to the list, was taken after the government carried out a "thorough examination of the situation", the interior ministry said.

"In the case of economic migrants, we need unambiguous signals that there is no protection for them in Austria," Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner warned.

The cabinet will sign off on the decision during its weekly meeting on Tuesday.

Last month, neighbouring Germany -- the favoured destination for most migrants -- also declared Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia safe countries of origin.

The classification means that their citizens will have little chance of being granted asylum. It will also allow Vienna to speed up case procedures and deport migrants more quickly.

The combined number of arrivals in Austria from Algeria and Morocco remains well below the 2,000-mark -- a tiny fraction of the 55,000 Syrians and Iraqis who sought asylum between January and November last year.

In total, the nation of almost nine million people received 90,000 asylum claims in 2015, one of the EU's highest rates per capita.

The Austrian government has noticeably hardened its stance as the bloc grapples with its worst migration crisis since World War II.

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In 2015, over a million people reached Europe's shores -- nearly half of them Syrians fleeing a civil war that has killed more than a quarter of a million people.

In response to the influx, Austria is due to announce this week a daily cap on migrants allowed to enter from fellow EU member Slovenia, the next country down the migrant trail along the Balkans.

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