Austria proposes the quickest way to clarify which migrants are entitled to claim asylum, according to Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. During a meeting of his EU counterparts in Vienna Friday, Mr Kickl is going to suggest processing migrants on board rescue ships in the Mediterranean, rather than on land.
Austria’s proposal on migrant processing at sea eas supported by Matteo Salvini, both interior ministers have formed a controversial anti-immigration “axis” along with their German counterpart Horst Seehofer.
According to Kickl, processing at sea would be for “those arriving on a boat in the territorial waters of an EU state”. There were no details regarding such a plan, except refugees would then be brought to the EU while the others would be returned to “safe ports” in third countries. Austria’s interior minister believes this measure would help solve what he called the “problem of repatriation”.
“Once people have set foot on the continent, you can only remove them with great difficulty and much expense,”
Herbert Kickl said and added that an aim of the EU’s asylum policy should be to make it “impossible to claim asylum except from outside the EU, and that claims be decided outside the EU”.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) condemned Kickl’s remarks, saying:
“This proposal is simply another attempt to distract attention from the real issue, namely the inability of Europe and of Austria’s EU presidency to find a sustainable solution to the humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean and Libya,”
The Austrian branch of MSF said in a statement. The doctors strongly believe that Austrian authorities should put the protection of human life at the centre of their efforts.
This week’s meeting in Vienna brought together ministers and officials from the EU as well as African states to discuss cooperation on migration policy and Kickl’s ‘impossible’ idea.
Despite the considerable fall in the numbers of migrants arriving in Europe since the crisis of 2015, the issue of immigration continues to be one of the most contentious within the EU and is expected to be high on the agenda when EU leaders meet for an informal summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Wednesday and Thursday next week.