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18 Aug, 2021 12:18

‘No reason why Afghans should come here’: Austrian minister rebuffs calls to take more refugees after Kabul takeover by Taliban

‘No reason why Afghans should come here’: Austrian minister rebuffs calls to take more refugees after Kabul takeover by Taliban

Austria’s interior minister said that Vienna does not plan to accept more refugees after the Taliban seized power in Kabul. Austrian officials proposed setting up deportation sites around Afghanistan instead.

“Illegal migration that comes through a dozen safe countries, and where migrants simply choose the country of their destination, must be stopped,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told the German newspaper Die Welt on Wednesday.

There is no reason why Afghans should come to Austria now.

The minister from the conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) said that the landlocked country of nearly nine million has granted protection status to more than 130,000 people over the past five years.

“Almost 35,000 of these people arrived from Afghanistan. The majority of them are young men, who often have a low level of education or are illiterate, and pose a major challenge for integration and [our] social system,” Nehammer said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his government have long been insisting that Austria continue deporting rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants to their home countries.

On Monday, a day after the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, fell to the Taliban with little to no resistance, Nehammer and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schellenberg proposed that the EU set up deportation centers in the region around Afghanistan if it will be impossible to return people to the country due to European human rights law.

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Other Austrian politicians took a different stance. Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPO), tweeted that the city is ready to accept Afghans who helped Austrian diplomats and campaigned for the rights of women and girls.

A similar pledge was made by Innsbruck Mayor Georg Willi (The Greens) who said in an open letter that the city of close to 300,000 people “has space, and can – and will – offer protection.”

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen wrote on social media that deporting Afghans home right now will place them in imminent danger.

International observers were shocked by the chaotic scenes in Kabul over the weekend as locals rushed to the Hamid Karzai Airport and desperately swarmed the tarmac in the hope of catching a plane to flee the country. Although the Taliban said it would prevent violence, the situation on the ground remains tense.

EU nations like Germany and the Netherlands suspended deportations to Afghanistan, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for a humanitarian effort to help the refugees. 

Hungary, which is ruled by a conservative government, meanwhile, said it will not allow unrestricted access of Afghan asylum seekers into its territory. The dramatic developments in Kabul and other parts of the country “could bring about an era in migration and international terrorism that we didn't want and perhaps could have avoided,” Levente Magyar, state secretary of Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday.

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