EU rejects Austria’s ‘asylum islands’ suggestion

EU rejects Austria's 'asylum islands' suggestion
Dragan Tatic/
The EU has rejected a controversial suggestion from Austria’s foreign minister that asylum seekers should be kept on islands rather than be allowed direct access to the continent.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz had suggested that Europe follows the “Australian example” of turning back asylum seekers and migrants who arrive there by boat, to discourage migrants from setting out on the often perilous journey to Europe.

The idea was widely criticised by other Austrian politicians and now the European Commission has also rejected the idea.

The Australian approach to refugees is “not a model for us”, a spokesperson for the EU Commission said on Monday, according to DerStandard newspaper.

Kurz, from the conservative ÖVP party also came under fire from politicians in Austria, including the governor of Burgenland Hans Niessl, from the Social Democrats (SPÖ), who said the Foreign Minister was trying to distract people from “his own inaction”.

Sonja Wehsely (SPÖ) who leads Health and Social Affairs in Vienna, has also said: “I don’t know what is worse: whether Kurz knows of what he is speaking about here, or not.”

NGO’s who work with refugees are also severely critical of the suggestion with the spokesperson for SOS Mitmensch describing the suggestion as an “un-costed, inhumane and deeply cynical plan” on Facebook.

Kurz has since defended his comments in an interview with the ORF, saying that the suggestion is not 'inhumane'.

‘Consequences’ for uncooperative EU countries

In a statement released on Tuesday the EU Commission said that migration is now the top of their foreign policy agenda.

The paper unveiled by the Commission proposed financial incentives for other countries to encourage them to stop migrants and asylum seekers from travelling into Europe.

They also suggested creating an €8 billion fund for countries in northern Africa as well as relaxing visa requirements and trade policies between the EU and countries in that region to provide mgirants with a legal avenue to Europe.

The Commission has also said that any EU country that doesn’t cooperate when it comes to EU policy on asylum and migration will face “consequences”.