Austria seeks to repatriate 50,000 asylum seekers in the next three years, according to a new government plan that comes amid a flurry of policies in European countries to curb the massive inflow of migrants.
The expulsion scheme includes financial incentives for people to leave Austria, as well as an expanded list of safe countries whose citizens are unlikely to be granted refugee status, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.
The Vienna government had announced earlier in January that it would limit the refugee inflow to 37,500 this year, down from last year's 90,000.
"We are already among the countries with the most expulsions," Austria's conservative Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said in a statement provided to dpa.
"But we will step up the pace and will increase the upward trend," added the minister, who has been pushing for tougher policies in Europe.
Austria's governing coalition of Social Democrats and conservatives of the People's Party has felt pressed to adopt restrictive policies because the anti-immigration Freedom Party has been leading in voter surveys for the past several months.
Austria plans to expand the list of safe countries to include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Ghana, Georgia and Mongolia. Asylum claims from these countries are to be handled in a rapid 10-day procedure.
The government also plans to increase financial incentives for people willing to leave quickly to 500 euros (545 dollars), up from the current 370 euros.
Asylum seekers will get this money if they leave within three months without waiting for a decision on their refugee status, or without appealing such a decision.
In addition, Austria aims to boost the number of chartered flights to carry out extraditions and to carry out information campaigns in countries of origin.
Along with Germany and Sweden, Austria was among the EU countries with the highest number of asylum claims per capita last year.
Swedish Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman said Tuesday that his country was preparing for the expulsion of up to 80,000 people whose asylum bids have been rejected.
The German government coalition reached a deal on Friday that also includes designating Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as countries of safe origin. In addition, the government wants to restrict the number of refugees who will be allowed to have their family members join them in Germany.
"Many countries are stepping up the pace. We've set in motion a chain reaction of reason," Mikl-Leitner said.