Refugee crisis

Minister gets tough on asylum quota situation

Minister gets tough on asylum quota situation
Tents being set up in Linz, Upper Austria. Photo: LPD OÖ/Michael Dietrich
Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) has sent a strong message to Austria’s states regarding their quotas for taking in asylum seekers - saying that they must accept responsibility or give up their power as she would be forced to make the decision over where asylum seekers are housed a federal matter.

She criticized “some state politicians and mayors” who have voiced their opposition to putting up asylum seekers in empty barracks and had even threatened lawsuits. This is “not encouraging, considering that the tents where asylum seekers are currently housed, are already soaked by rain – it’s an intolerable situation,” she added.

In Upper Austria, where asylum seekers have been housed in tent shelters in Linz and Thalham in cold and rainy conditions, councillor Gertraud Jahn (SPÖ) said on Thursday that more suitable, temporary accommodation has now been found.

The six states which have failed to take in their allotted quota of asylum seekers are Upper Austria, Tyrol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Burgenland and Vorarlberg. Vienna, Lower Austria and Styria, on the other hand, have taken in more than their quota.

Last week the Austrian government set up three tent camps for asylum seekers in response to the rapidly growing influx of refugees who come predominantly from Syria and Afghanistan.

Mikl-Leitner defended the tent project, saying it had been the “last option” in light of the “explosive increase” in refugees in recent times – but said there shouldn’t be a need for any more camps.

Earlier this week Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann welcomed an offer by the Defence Ministry to house up to 800 asylum seekers in army barracks.

Faymann described the plan as a positive development but admitted that it could face opposition from local politicians.

Austria received more than 28,000 asylum requests in 2014, three times the European average relative to population size.

This year, 14,200 demands were already made between January and April.

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