With 13,880 applications registered from January until the end of March, Austria still has one of the highest number of applicants per population in Europe, second only to Germany.
Across the EU the number of applications in that period dropped by 33% compared to the previous quarter, with 287,100 people applying for international protection in the first quarter of this year.
One in three asylum seekers who came to Europe in this period were Syrian. In Austria the highest amount of asylum applications (29%) were registered by people from Afghanistan, followed by Syrians (23%) and Iranians (9%).
Speaking to the ORF this morning Austria’s defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil rejected the idea of asylum islands that had been suggested by foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, saying that it would create “further problems”.
He agreed, however, that there could be general EU processing centres run to European standards, although possibly located on foreign soil such as north African countries.
Vote on social benefits to refugees
Meanwhile Austria’s upper parliament is voting today on whether to reduce the amount of financial welfare benefits provided to refugees or those with subsidiary protection.
NGOs have criticised the proposal, with the head of the UNHCR in Austria Christoph Pinter telling ORF’s FM4 news that it is not possible to make a distinction between refugees and Austrians according to international refugee law.
He added reducing the benefit for refugees would have a negative impact on integration. “Refugees will have a different problems than German classes or vocational training if they have this problem with the benefits. They might need to move out of their flats if they can’t afford them. They will not have time for integration efforts in Austria. This is something we’re really sure about,” he said.
Austria received 90,000 asylum applications last year and earlier this year the government announced it would only accept 37,500 of the total asylum applications registered in the country this year.
Around 11,000 of which were already accepted in the first few months of the year, according to Chancellor Kern. This figure did not including asylum seekers who the government wants to return to the first EU country they entered under the Dublin II Regulation.
The Dublin Regulation broke down last year and although it is technically still in place, some countries – including Austria’s neighbour Hungary – have said they will refuse to take asylum seekers sent back by other countries.