Austrian proposal requires asylum seekers to apply outside EU, report says


Austria has tabled a proposal requiring asylum seekers to file their applications outside the EU in future and only in exceptional cases will they be allowed to do so on member states’ soil, Austrian weekly Profil said on Saturday.

European Union countries, bitterly divided over immigration, agreed in June to process asylum requests in camps around the Mediterranean, including in Africa, and share responsibility for migrants rescued.

Germany, Italy and Austria plan to hold talks next week on how to shut down the Mediterranean route taken by tens of thousands of migrants from Africa to Europe, with Rome calling the situation urgent and "dangerous".

A dispute in Germany over how to deal with migrants threatened to bring down Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in recent days and also strained the country’s relation to neighboring Austria.

A paper by Austria’s interior ministry, calling for a new "protection system", requires that "no application for asylum could be made on European soil," according to Profil.

Austria presented the proposal at a meeting of EU officials at a civil servant level, the magazine said. It did not specify where the meeting took place.

Only in "hot spots" outside the bloc should people in need of protection be selected and subsequently transferred to European Union countries, Profil quoted the paper as saying.

The magazine said the Austrian proposal also calls for granting asylum only to those "who respect the values of the EU, its fundamental rights and fundamental freedoms".

The interior ministry and the Austrian government spokesman were not immediately available for comment. Profil quoted the government spokesman as saying the paper "wished to provoke thought".

As more than a million people entered the EU in 2015, overwhelming Italy, Greece, Germany and Austria, eastern nations led by Poland and Hungary refused to help by taking in a share.

A plan for "Africa hot spots" proposed two years ago by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was widely criticized at the time as potentially violating rights of those who attempt the crossing.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has pledged to use his good relations with Hungary to bring the divided sides closer. [Reuters]