Speaking to journalists at a meeting in Germany with the Bavarian Christian Social Union party, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said: “If I remember rightly, we have sent more than 5,000 or 5,500 back from Austria, especially to Bulgaria and Romania amongst others.”
She added that people who apply for asylum in Austria after travelling through Croatia and Slovenia will be returned to these countries, as according to the Dublin Regulation they must apply for asylum in the first EU country they reached.
“If refugees come from Slovenia and Croatia to Austria and apply for asylum in Austria ... then we'll take them back to Croatia and Slovenia,” she said, pointing out that hardly any asylum applications had been lodge in these countries.
Arguing that a functioning asylum system needs an effective return policy, Mikl-Leitner added that “there's still a lot of work to do on this, especially with regard to north African countries”.
She added that 545 people smugglers have been jailed in Austria and the country expects about 2,000 trials of traffickers this year.
Chaotic scenes in Salzburg
The news comes amid chaotic scenes at Salzburg train station with the temporary accommodation designed for 800 people frequently over capacity as thousands of asylum seekers arrive with the hope of travelling onto nearby Germany.
On Wednesday over 2000 migrants arrived, with Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden warning on Thursday of an emergency situation that is permanently overwhelming the station.
“Under the circumstances we cannot cope for much longer with Salzburg functioning as a transit point from Austria to Germany,” he said.