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Austria: EU members should act in their national interests
Austria's Foreign Minister meets his Romanian counterpart. Photo: Twitter/Sebastian Kurz

Austria: EU members should act in their national interests

The Local · 21 Jun 2016, 10:55

Published: 21 Jun 2016 10:55 GMT+02:00

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Conservative Sebastian Kurz who has been Austria's Minister for foreign affairs and integration since 2013 was at the meeting this week with his EU colleagues in Luxembourg.
Outlining the Austrian position he said it was clear that the Europe wide migration policy was simply not working.
He said: "The fact is that we have lost control. At the moment it is not us as the EU that is deciding who comes into Europe, it is the people smugglers."
He said the only way to tackle that was to remove their business model, and the only way to do that was to stop accepting people into Europe who had come here illegally. Instead, he reiterated his suggestion that people who are intercepted for illegal migration should be taken away to camps in a third country like Africa.
People travelling with smugglers were currently simply being allowed to carry on with their journeys into Europe, and that should no longer be allowed, according to Kurz.
He said that asylum and migration centres in third countries should be administered by the EU and the UNHCR and help should be supplied locally and also the opportunity for people accepted to legally carry on with their journeys to Europe.
He added: "We are of the opinion that a European solution is needed, but as long as there is not one, then in Austria we will continue to implement national measures."
He believes that the Austrian solution of asylum centres outside of the EU borders was the only way to regain control over immigration and said he had found widespread agreement within the EU over his assertion that the current system is not working.
Countries which refuse to work with the EU should lose the opportunity for aid money, he said, and those that do help should be rewarded with financial assistance, a similar proposal to that put forward by the European Commission last week.  
Kurz added: "What is currently happening between Turkey and Greece should be a model that could also be applied to Italy and Libya.
At the moment Greece is stopping illegal immigrants and those who arrive on islands they are attempting to send back to Turkey.
"This alone has significantly reduced the flood of immigrants. And that means less deaths on the sea," he said.
Complaining of high numbers of asylum seekers so far this year, he accused Italians of still simply waving people through without properly attempting to stop the flow.
Benefit payments slashed
Austria has also controversially defied the EU and slashed benefit payments to refugees which according to the EU rules should be paid at the same rates available to locals.
However one region - Upper Austria - has defied these rules even further and slashed benefits by almost a half from around €900 per person to €500, a move criticised by the UNHCR which believes people will not be able to pay rent and feed themselves with this money.
In addition, of the €500 now offered, €155 will only be paid to people who have made the effort to learn German and agreed to an integration contract.
Local politician Wolfgang Hattmannsdorfer said the cuts were necessary in order to prevent the collapse of the welfare system.
Story continues below…
He said the mass influx of asylum seekers had forced the decision upon them, claiming the move will save Upper Austria around  €70 million.
New measures for asylum seekers
Kurz also announced this week, along with Social Democrat Muna Duzdar from the Chancellor's office, a series of new measures directed towards asylum seekers in Austria. 
The new measures include an expansion of charitable and volunteering opportunities for asylum seekers.
They also announced €50 million for new German courses that will be provided to people as early as possible and not just when they have obtained refugee status.
Asylum seekers whose application for refugee status is likely to be approved will also be expected to attend value and orientation courses while they await the decision.
Story courtesy of Central European News/The Local Austria.

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