Vice Chancellor: Austria Cannot Accept More Than 100,000 Migrants a Year

VIENNA (Reuters) -
Migrants walk towards a village after entering from Macedonia by foot in Miratovac, Serbia, October 24, 2015. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called an extraordinary meeting of several European leaders on Sunday to tackle the migrant crisis in the western Balkans as thousands trying to reach Germany are trapped in deteriorating conditions. The Commission said in a statement on Wednesday that Juncker had invited the heads of state or government of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, plus key organisations involved. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski (Newscom TagID: rtrlseven404649.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
Migrants walk toward a village in Miratovac, Serbia, after entering from Macedonia on foot. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski)

Austria’s vice chancellor said on Monday that Austria could not accept more than 100,000 migrants a year, following a pledge from its larger neighbor, Germany, to limit arrivals.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere, have entered Austria on their route northwest from the Balkans since early September.

Most have moved on to Germany, but Austria still expects to have received about 95,000 asylum applications this year, equivalent to more than 1% of its population, compared with the 28,000 registered in 2014. Of those, 38% were approved.

“Around 90-100,000 – a lot more will simply not be possible,” Reinhold Mitterlehner, from the conservative OVP, junior partner in the coalition, told ORF radio.

Chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat who has generally adopted a more compassionate tone on the issue than the conservatives, was quoted as saying last weekend that Austria should step up deportations of migrants who do not qualify for asylum.

Faymann has also emphasized that policy decisions have been closely coordinated with his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, who has pledged to “noticeably reduce the number of refugees,” fending off a challenge from critics of her own.