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Austria calls for indefinite border controls

Kate Brady
April 26, 2017

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has urged the EU to extend the country's border controls. Citing security concerns, Sobotka said he "simply needs to know who is coming to our country."

Österreich Grenzübergang Gries am Brenner
Image: Imago/Eibner Europa

In an interview with German daily Die Welt on Wednesday, Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said that while external EU borders could not be adequately protected, Vienna would continue to take national measures.

"In terms of public order and internal security, I simply need to know who is coming to our country," Sobotka said, adding that he was optimistic that Brussels would give the necessary consent.

The EU Commission is due next week to announce its decision on a renewed extension of border controls under Article 29 of the Schengen border code.

- Austria plans tougher measures against refused asylum seekers

- Austria, allies to fortify borders against refugees

At the beginning of February the EU Council of Ministers already allowed Germany and four other countries - Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway - to extend border controls for three more months until mid-May.

Infografik Flüchtlingsroute und Grenzkontrollen im Schengen-Raum Englisch

The reason for the extension, the Council said, was the danger of so-called "secondary migration" between EU countries and the burden on individual states through the influx of refugees from the Syrian war zones that had crossed Turkey and the Balkan route.

Austria and Germany introduced border controls for the first time in September 2015 at the height refugee crisis.

Exemption from redistibution program

Almost two years on since the height of the refugee crisis, Vienna is also seeking an exemption or "postponement" of the EU refugee distribution program

The system requires EU member states to accept a mandatory and proportional distribution of asylum-seekers who arrive in other member nations.

After accepting around 90,000 refugees in 2015, the EU gave Austria a temporary exception from the relocation program until 2017. However, the country is now expected to accept 2,000 people seeking asylum from Greece and Italy.

Opposition in eastern Europe

The two-year plan, which expires this September, was supposed to cover 160,000 migrants across Europe. Yet the agreement included only a small portion of total migrant arrivals in the EU.

Moreover, opposition from eastern EU members, such as Hungary and Poland, has stymied the agreement's implementation. Fewer than 14,500 asylum-seekers have been redistributed thus far from Greece and Italy, two arrival points for the Mediterranean Sea crossings favored by Middle Eastern and African migrants.