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EC asks Austria to reconsider asylum cap

The European Commission urged Austria Thursday to reconsider its plans to limit asylum claims which it warned would be "plainly incompatible" with European Union laws.

EC asks Austria to reconsider asylum cap
Dimitris Avramopoulos with Greek opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Photo: EC

European migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos sent the complaint in a letter to Austria's Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner who said Wednesday the country would cap the daily number of asylum claims at 80.

“Such a policy would be plainly incompatible with Austria's obligations under European and international law,” Avramopoulos said in a copy of the letter obtained by AFP.

Avramopoulos cited the European Convention on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

“Austria has a legal obligation to accept any asylum application that is made on its territory or at its border,” the letter said. “I would urge you to reconsider the unilateral measures which you are proposing.”

Mikl-Leitner said her government had no choice but to introduce the measures taking effect from Friday because Austria is among the EU countries most under strain from the unprecedented migrant influx and is “reaching breaking point.”

The move came a day after Vienna said it would step up controls at existing checkpoints along its southern frontier with Italy, Slovenia and Hungary to curb the influx of migrants and refugees trekking up along the Balkans.

The daily limit on asylum claims is in line with Austria's announcement last month that it would only take in 37,500 asylum-seekers this year — sharply down from the 90,000 it accepted in 2015.

Since January, the country of nearly nine million has already received 11,000 asylum claims, or around 250 a day.

The government has not yet specified what it plans to do once the annual quota is reached.

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Tell us: What was your experience like dealing with Vienna’s MA35?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna is for many immigrants their first encounter with Austrian bureaucracy. We want to hear from you about your own experience dealing with officials and the process.

Tell us: What was your experience like dealing with Vienna's MA35?

Vienna’s MA35 is a well-known office for immigrants in Austria, particularly those who live in the capital. It has received plenty of criticism for long delays, mistakes and even mistreatment of those seeking services from renewing a visa to applying for Austrian citizenship.

Yet, it is an integral part of life for immigrants and their family members, as the office is responsible for residence permits (from visas to the Anmeldebescheiningung for EU citizens), naturalisation applications and more. In short: there is no escaping it.

So, we want to hear from you: What has been your experience and importantly do you have any advice for others?

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