‘Absurd’ refugee system making Malta unable to shoulder migratory influx - Austria

Austrian Chancellor Wermer Faymann calls on EU to establish refugee quota to distribute migrants across member states.

The death of around 1,000 migrants off the coast of Malta prompted EU leaders to hold extraordinary summit. Photo: Ray Attard/Mediatoday
The death of around 1,000 migrants off the coast of Malta prompted EU leaders to hold extraordinary summit. Photo: Ray Attard/Mediatoday

Austrian Chancellor Wermer Faymann has called on all European Union countries to shoulder the migratory influx, arguing that it is “totally absurd” for asylum-seekers to be taken in by the country where they first arrive.

Faymann – who has repeatedly insisted that the influx of migrants should not be borne by Italy and Malta alone – said refugees should be equally distributed amongst European member states.

In an interview with Austrian newspaper Oesterreich, the Austrian Chancellor called on the European Union to establish a refugee quota for every member state in order to help alleviate the influx of migrants.

Faymann’s comments come in the wake of the death of around 1,000 migrants off the coast off Malta and Italy. The deaths prompted EU leaders to hold an extraordinary summit to discuss the Mediterranean crisis.

“I want quick EU-wide rules that in future all 28 countries declare themselves willing to take in refugees on a scale linked to population. There should be a refugee quota for each country,” he told Oesterreich in an interview on Sunday.

Describing the current system as “totally absurd”, Faymann explained that the current system, which requires asylum-seekers to be taken in by the country where they first arrive, meant that Malta, Italy and Greece were unable to shoulder the influx.

"This naturally applies only to refugees fleeing war and seeking political asylum. We do not want and cannot take in economic refugees," he added. Faymann also reiterated Austria’s call to establish asylum-processing centres outside the European Union.

If successful, the plan to outsource asylum centres would see migrants distributed across EU countries.

In April, the European Union agreed to step up its cooperation against smuggling networks, and to triple the monthly budget of Triton, the Frontex-operated border mission, to €9 million. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has been tasked with proposing actions to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used.

However, the Austrian Chancellor argued that the budget increase would probably need to be “doubled to keep more refugees from drowning.”

On Wednesday, German President Joachim Gauck also expressed Faymann’s solidarity with Malta, arguing that the country’s handling of the influx of migrants was “remarkable.”

Gauck said it would be “bizarre” to criticise Malta’s detention policies, given that it is the smallest EU country and one facing an excessively high burden.

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