Austria should cut asylum numbers by half, conservatives say

Austria ought to lower its upper limit for asylum applications it will process to 17,000 - just under half the 35,000 it had planned to this year - conservative Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner proposed Wednesday.

Since authorities have yet to process 14,000 claims filed last year, the drastically lower cap could effectively result in the closure of Austria's borders to asylum seekers.

The cut is necessary in order to properly integrate migrants, Mitterlehner said at a meeting of his People's Party in the town of Poellauberg.

Lowering the threshold would also send a signal to Austrians that the government is responding to sexual assaults and other crimes committed by asylum seekers, and to difficulties that authorities face as they try to send home those who have been rejected, he added.

"I know this is a harsh proposal, but it's a necessary one," he said.

Chancellor Christian Kern's Social Democratic Party, which forms a coalition with the People's Party, did not immediately respond to the plan.

After letting in 90,000 asylum seekers in 2015, the Austrian government changed course early last year and set a cap of 37,500 claims for 2016 and 35,000 for 2017.

Faced with growing support for the far-right Freedom Party, the government has also introduced a number of other restrictive immigration measures.

Last update: Wed, 11/01/2017 - 15:33

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