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Image: Reuters/L. Foeger

Austria demands Germany cap refugee numbers

March 6, 2016

Vienna has asked Germany to place a limit on the number of migrants coming into the country. If Berlin failed to do so, more migrants would try and make their way into Europe, Austria's chancellor said.


"Germany needs to state the number of refugees it is willing to accommodate from the region around Turkey and Syria," Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann told the "Kurier" newspaper's Sunday edition.

If Berlin were to follow Austria's benchmark for the number of migrants, it could take in 400,000, Faymann said. "As long as Germany does not clearly say, it is clear what will happen: refugees will keep believing that they will be allowed to pass through," he added.

Refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have been travelling from Greece through the Balkan countries and Austria before finally arriving in Germany. Austria accepted 90,000 asylum applications in 2015.

Österreich Bundeskanzler Werner Faymann
Werner Faymann: arguing to protect his country's interestsImage: Imago/Eibner Europa

Last month, Austria declared it was closing its borders and would allow only 80 asylum applications every day and a maximum of 37,500 in 2016. It also said it would only allow 3,200 refugees to cross through Austria to another country. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has avoided putting a cap on the number of refugees entering the country.

EU leaders to meet with Turkey

The Austrian chancellor said in September last year that letting refugees in without checks was a temporary solution. Faymann told the "Kurier" that he had always advocated a massive reduction in the number of refugees.

Faymann said he would even consider legal action against the European Union for claiming a limit on refugee numbers was against EU law. "I have never insulted anyone, but consistently followed the interests of Austria. As the head of government, that is my job," Faymann said. However, he added, the measures proposed by the EU for refugees were simply not enough and member states were not united.

Situation for refugees in Idomeni worsens

Faymann's comments come a day before EU representatives are scheduled to meet Turkish leaders to formulate a plan to resolve the refugee crisis. The Austrian leader proposed three solutions to the problems.

First, better cooperation with Turkey, human smugglers need to be tackled in a coordinated manner and rejected asylum applicants must be sent back. Second, refugees must not be simply waved off. And third, instead of just letting migrants pass, refugees from outside the EU, from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan must be taken in with the help of the UNHCR and EU member states," Faymann said.

More than 1.3 million refugees arrived in Europe last year with most of them seeking asylum in Germany.

mg/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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