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7 Feb, 2016 10:09

Austria urges sending migrants back to Turkey, asks EU for €600mn

Austria urges sending migrants back to Turkey, asks EU for €600mn

The head of Austria's government says the EU's border agency Frontex should send asylum seekers entering the EU via Greece back to Turkey. Austria has also requested €600 million from the EU to cover extra costs for accepting more refugees.

"Frontex must pick up the people fleeing to Greece. We have to save all of them, but then these people should be sent directly to Turkey," Austrian Chancellor Werner Feymann said in an interview to the Austrian oe24.at news site, following a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday. 

In exchange for cooperation, Austria will speed up the transfer to Turkey of €3 billion ($3.3 billion) EU-promised financial aid, designed to provide for the needs of 2.2 million Syrian refugees staying in the country, sources close to the chancellor were quoted by the APA news agency as saying.

Austria wants Frontex to become a de-facto “border security program” instead of “rescue program,” which it is at the moment, Werner added. If Turkey fails to back the proposal, Austria will have to step up border security even more on its own.

 “We cannot say that our border is open from the bottom up. It’s not like that and it shouldn’t be,” the chancellor said, reiterating the claims that Austria will stick to its plan to deport 50,000 asylum seekers, whose applications have been rejected, in the next four years.

Earlier, it was reported Vienna was considering deploying troops to the Balkans to curb the influx of refugees sneaking into Europe via the so-called Balkan route, if Greece doesn’t manage to suppress the flow. The route begins on the Turkish coastline with Greece being the first EU member state asylum seekers attempt to reach.   

READ MORE: Austria mulls sending troops to Balkans to shut off refugee flow

In addition to sending refugees back, Austria is asking for €600 million ($670 million) from the European Commission for accommodating an extra 55,000 asylum seekers out of the 90,000 it took in last year, Austrian Finance Minister Hans-Joerg Schelling wrote in a letter to the Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker in January.

Previously, Austria announced it would put a cap on the number of asylum requests fixing it at 37,500 for 2016. Overall, it plans to accept 127,500 refugees until 2019, which accounts for 1.5 percent of the country’s 8.5 million population.

Each refugee costs Austria about €11,000, according to the ministry’s estimates.  

Schelling added he was “personally very frustrated” with the European Commission’s migration policy, which apparently lacks consistency and encouraged the Commission to provide a more concerted response to the refugee problem.

"Concerning the migration crisis, it is high time the Commission returned to its normal function as an independent institution representing the general community interest and start acting as such," he said in a letter, published by the Austrian Kurier daily paper.