Austria reports halved asylum requests in 2016

January 15, 2017 10:30 pm

Austrian citizens and asylum seekers march past a poster featuring presidential candidate Norbert Hofer, of the Freedom party FPOe, during a pro-refugee protest called “Let them stay” in Vienna, on November 26, 2016. (AFP photo)

Austria says the number of refugees applying for asylum in the country more than halved in 2016 compared to what was recorded in the previous year.
Austria’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday that the country received 42,073 requests for asylum, most of them from Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East.
A ministry spokesman said that arrivals last year did not breach a cap introduced by the ministry which had been aimed at limiting the flow of refugees. The Alpine country of 8.7 million imposed the restrictions after receiving 90,000 requests for asylum in 2015. The cap for 2016 was reportedly 37,500 and officials said 36,030 applications were counted as relevant last year.
Hundreds of thousands more hit the Austrian borders since early 2015, but most were refugees seeking to reach Germany.
Austria is struggling to further reduce the cap of asylum applications to 35,000 for this year. Many in the European Union (EU) as well as rights group have criticized Austria’s restrictive measures imposed on refugees, saying such a limit breaks the bloc’s rules and supports anti-migrant attitudes.
Chancellor Christian Kern has called for a cap that could ensure integration, adding that integrating refugees had been difficult and therefore sustainable solutions were needed.
“Without such solutions, a figure of 17,500 is purely arbitrary,” Kern said Sunday.
Despite reaching a major deal with Turkey in March to curb the historic flow of refugees, the EU has largely failed to provide a comprehensive solution to the issue of refugees, forcing members to introduce their own restrictions. Germany, the most welcoming in the beginning of all EU members in dealing with refugees, is now considering a refugee cap.
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