Austria faces high costs for migration despite drop in asylum claims

Austria expects to receive less than half the number of asylum seekers this year than it did in 2015, but the government has still earmarked 2 billion euros (2.2 billion dollars) for migration-related costs in 2017.

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Austria will likely stay below the limit of 37,500 that the government set early this year, an Interior Ministry spokesman told dpa on Wednesday.

The country took in 90,000 asylum seekers last year, but pressure from the far-right Freedom Party and from public opinion forced the centrist government to adopt restrictive policies earlier this year.

These policies mean that if the influx surpassed the government's limit, Austria would have triggered emergency measures to reject nearly all asylum seekers at its borders.

Since January, some 28,000 asylum claims have been filed, the spokesman said.

Along with Germany and Sweden, Austria has been especially affected by the migration crisis since 2015.

Presenting the 2017 budget in parliament, Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said 2 billion euros was set aside to host and integrate asylum seekers and to protect the country's borders.

These costs amounted to 600 million euros in 2014, nearly doubled to 1 billion euros in 2015 and doubled again this year to 2 billion euros.

For next year the government has increased its provisions for development aid and international organizations, in order to help address the root causes of migration.

However, the Interior Ministry and its police force will benefit from a far larger budget increase, to address citizens' concerns about migration, Schelling said.

"Not being safe in your own country is one of the biggest fears in these times. That's why we invest in our internal and external security, to address the current challenges and to ease the anxiety as much as possible," he said.

Last update: Wed, 12/10/2016 - 15:45
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