Germany, Austria Want to Accept Less Refugees

VIENNA (AP) -

The German government wants the number of migrants coming to the country to fall “significantly” after almost 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived last year.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said the flow of refugees has already slowed this year, but a further reduction is needed.

Steffen Seibert didn’t say what number the government is aiming for and declined to comment on the cap announced Wednesday by Austria.

Seibert told reporters in Berlin that a range of measures are needed to achieve the drop in migrant arrivals and urged European countries to make good on their pledge of giving 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to Turkey.

He said the experience of wars in ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s showed many refugees would also return to their home countries once conflicts end.

On Wednesday, Austria put a cap on the number of refugees it wants to accept – 37,500 this year and a total of 127,500 through 2019.

The numbers were announced after a meeting Wednesday of federal ministers and provincial governors.

Chancellor Werner Faymann said the figures are a “guideline” while Deputy Chancellor Reinhard Mitterlehner calls it an “upper limit.” The two officials are from the two parties that make up Austria’s coalition government – Faymann heads the Social Democratic Party while Mitterlehner belongs to the centrist People’s Party.

Officials said the government will be examining legal options on how it can react if those numbers are exceeded.

Faymann calls the decision an “emergency solution,” but says Austria “cannot accept everyone applying for asylum.”

Not included are the 90,000 applications from last year, of which many are still being processed.