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Austria may sue Hungary over migrants

September 7, 2016

Austria's interior minister has threatened Hungary with a lawsuit if Budapest refuses to take back migrants. Hungary, in turn, has blamed bad policy in Germany, Austria and Greece for Europe's migrant crisis.

Symbolbild Flüchtlinge
Image: Reuters/O.Teofilovski

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka on Wednesday suggested his country would file a lawsuit against Hungary if its neighbor refused to take back migrants who had crossed the border.

Tensions over immigration are high ahead of October 2 presidential elections in Austria, which has accused Hungary of letting migrants over the border and thus breaching EU agreements on dealing with asylum-seekers. The presidential vote could see the anti-immigration, far-right Freedom Party take over the presidency in Vienna.

"States or groups of states that permanently break the law have to expect legal consequences," Sobotka told ORF radio. "In that case, the [Austrian] republic must sue. The republic must see that the European Union acts according to the law, full stop."

It was unclear what legal avenues the government would consider or if the comment was no more than political rhetoric.

Under the EU's Dublin regulations, the EU member state where a person first arrived in the bloc must process the asylum application.

Hungary, which will have a referendum on October 2 on whether to accept the European Union asylum quota plan, said migrants passed though Hungary after arriving first in Greece, another EU member, and then traversed the Balkan route to northern Europe.

Hungary has also blamed Germany and Austria for their previous open-border policy that led to more than a million migrants from the Middle East and Africa arriving in Europe last year.

The migrant and refugee flow through the Balkan route has slowed to a trickle after states closed their borders earlier this year, Austria implemented tighter restrictions and an asylum quota and the European Union agreed to a deal with Ankara to keep people from attempting to cross from Turkey into the EU.

Most migrants arriving in Europe in recent months cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

Stranded at the Hungarian border

cw/sms (dpa, Reuters)