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Hofer backs down on refugee island scheme
Defaced election poster. Photo: Ed Serotta

Hofer backs down on refugee island scheme

The Local · 9 Sep 2016, 20:32

Published: 09 Sep 2016 20:32 GMT+02:00

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In an interview with German magazine ‘Stern’, the presidential hopeful of the Austrian Freedom Party said he has turned against the proposal by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to house migrants on islands outside of Europe until their asylum applications have been processed.

Hofer said the idea went “too far” and said to it was “excessive, to put it diplomatically”.

Kurz appeared puzzled by the change of heart, who had thought until recently he had copied the plan from the Freedom Party.

A spokesman for Kurz said: “If you are honest about the issue, then you have to openly address the current situation in Italy. The migrants come to the hotspots on the islands and from there are carried to the mainland rather than being stopped and transported back."

Kurz’s spokesman said that if Hofer chooses not to stop the migrants but to wave them on towards Europe, he should clearly say so.

The idea to house migrants on islands out of the mainland of Europe is also preached by the far-right ‘Alternatives for Germany’ (AfD) party and the Dutch Freedom Party.

The plans are based on the Australian model, which houses migrants in facilities on foreign territories. The model has been heavily criticised by human rights activists as inhumane.

Austrian media speculates that Hofer has backed away from his initial party platform in order to soften his image in the run-up to the presidential elections.  

Yet he did agree in the interview that he is still in favour of returning migrants who are rescued in the Mediterranean back to Africa. He also emphasised his criticism of the EU deal with Turkey, and briefed against giving visa-free travel to Turkish citizens.

Hofer said it would open the door for Turkey to issue passports to Syrian migrants, who then could travel freely into Europe.

Story continues below…

The Austrian Supreme Court overturned the previous results of the Presidential elections on 1st July after an investigation revealed irregularities in the vote count in several constituencies.

In those elections, Green Party-backed Alexander Van der Bellen, 72, narrowly beat far-right candidate Norbert Hofer, 45, of Austria’s Freedom Party. The two politicians will face each other again in a revote on the 2nd of October--assuming the elections aren't delayed due to anticipated problems with postal ballots.

Story courtesy of Central European News

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