Minister says Austria will make itself ‘less attractive’ to migrants

VIENNA: Austria’s finance minister said on Tuesday the government would agree this week on measures to further secure the country’s borders and make it “less attractive” to migrants.


The government is holding a meeting on Wednesday with provincial and local leaders to address the wave of migration into Europe via the Balkans and Austria.

“There will be a bundle of measures that go in the direction of securing the borders, that go in the direction of a discussion about an upper limit (to the number of migrants),” Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling, a conservative, said on the sidelines of a Euromoney conference in Vienna.

“There will be measures that we demand from the European Union and there will be measures on how we make Austria less attractive.”

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have entered Austria since it and Germany threw open their borders in early September. The vast majority moved on to its larger neighbour, but a fraction have stayed.

Government ministers from both the Social Democrats and their junior coalition partner, the conservative Austrian People’s Party, have taken an increasingly tough line.

Support has risen for the far-right Freedom Party, currently the country’s most popular, and hurt the two main parties in local elections last year.

Senior members of the People’s Party have called for a cap on the number of migrants. Roughly 90,000 people applied for asylum last year, more than 1 percent of the population, and conservatives say the country can take few more.

The centre left has opposed such plans, but Chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, in recent weeks called for deportations to be accelerated and more “economic migrants” to be turned away.

Germany’s increasingly strict border controls have prompted fears of a build-up of migrants in Austria, and the country has often reacted to new German restrictions by introducing similar measures of its own.

Asked about Austria’s coordination with Germany on the migration crisis, Schelling said: “At the moment, it’s business as usual. But if Germany decides to seal the borders, where will Europe stand?”