Vienna caps number of refugees

Austria has become the first European country to set an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers it will take in: this year it will accept a maximum of 37,500 migrants. What repercussions will this decision have?

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Der Standard (AT) /

An invitiation to race to Austria

Vienna's decision will trigger a race to reach the border at the last minute, the centre-left daily Der Standard predicts:

“In this race to Austria the annual limit will be reached sooner than Interior Minister Mikl-Leitner is currently predicting. And the wave of refugees won't stop immediately once it is reached. This plan is an invitation to refugees to set off on their journey as quickly as possible. If the goal is to stem the influx we need flexible numbers that are accompanied by measures for limiting the amount of asylum applications. This too would be overly restrictive for many critics of the 'upper limits'. But the government's new stance is even worse: clearly it is more focussed on convincing the public that it is taking resolute action than on seeking truly effective ways to lessen the country's burden.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Upper limits today - sending them back to the Mediterranean tomorrow

Governments like Austria's that want to reduce refugees numbers by setting upper limits on how many they take in must think the idea through to its logical conclusion, the liberal daily De Standaard finds:

“To stop waves one must build walls and dikes. … But that doesn't work. Because why should one take in 30,000 when that number could just as well be 20,000 or even just 5,000? That's if we're talking about a wave here, rather than individuals vis-à-vis whom we Europeans have a moral responsibility? … Angela Merkel wisely predicted that the asylum crisis represented a fundamental threat to the European project. Today the discussion is about upper limits, tomorrow it will be about big camps and the day after about sending them back to the sea. Because when we talk about a wave it sounds quite reasonable to turn it back.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Vienna's decision threatens stability in the Balkans

Now there is the danger of more uncoordinated border closures for which all Europe will pay a high price, the liberal conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung fears:

“Austria has accelerated a chain reaction that began at the latest with Sweden's turnaround in December. Vienna in turn is reacting to the fact that Germany is turning back several hundred people each day on its border. … These ongoing developments may trigger uncoordinated border closures in the Balkans. … It would be irresponsible, and not only in moral terms, if the rich countries of Western Europe were now to push the refugee problem on to the countries of the Western Balkans. The tensions would escalate in a region which has been growing together only very slowly since the Yugoslav wars. And Europe's stabilisation policy in the Western Balkans, which is motivated mainly by the migration movements of the 1990s, would be undermined.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Only Dublin reform can prevent domino effect

Austria's decision could trigger a domino effect, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore fears, urging a revision of the Dublin Regulation:

“Under the current legislation the country in which refugees first set foot in is responsible for taking them in. However, the exceptions are effectively overriding the rule. For one thing Germany has opened its borders, thus breaking the rules. And for another the 28 EU states have in principle voted in favour of the redistribution of 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, but the quota system is failing owing to the opposition of individual states. Therefore a reform of the Dublin Regulation is imperative, not least in order to close the legal loopholes. The lack of agreement at the European level threatens to trigger a domino effect. If they are faced with closed borders more and more refugees will gradually be driven back to the south of the continent.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Austria's success still depends on Europe

Despite the upper limit on refugees Austria will continue to depend on others if it wants its refugee policy to succeed, the liberal Christian daily Salzburger Nachrichten predicts:

“The success of the new refugee policy doesn't depend only on Austria but also on our European partners. And on global politics. If the asylum seekers continue to be waved through from Turkey right across to [the Austrian-Slovenian border crossing] Spielfeld, Austria's asylum policy will fail. If the majority of EU countries continue to refuse to take in their share of refugees, Austria's asylum policy will fail. If the collapse of state structures in parts of the Middle East and Africa continues, Austria's asylum policy will fail. Any asylum policy is a balancing act between what fundamental rights call for and what is politically feasible. Falling from the tightrope is prohibited, but unfortunately possible.”

More opinions

Berliner Zeitung (DE) / 22 January 2016
  Germany must not trigger domino effect (in German)
De Morgen (BE) / 21 January 2016
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