Sebastian Kurz.jpg
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz
Photograph: EPA/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Austria is proposing to return or intern migrants approaching European shores by boat from the Mediterranean, according to comments from Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Sunday.

The hundreds of thousands of migrants waiting in North Africa need to understand that "being rescued at sea is not a ticket to Central Europe," the Austrian People's Party (OeVP) party politician told the Sunday edition of Die Presse.

"The European Union must clearly define that anyone trying to enter Europe illegally shall lose their right to asylum," said Kurz, arguing that asylum applications should be made from UN centres in North Africa.

Austria reintroduced border controls in September last year in response to the surge of migrants and asylum seekers coming along the Balkan route.

The minister suggested the European Union should now base its policies on parts of the Australian immigration model.

Kurz said that following Australia's decision to stop migrant boats and send migrants home or bring them to offshore centres, no more people were dying illegally in the attempt to reach the country's shores.

On Friday, 117 bodies were recovered on the Libyan coast after a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Crete.

Kurz said that Europe also needed to provide far more help in crisis areas and volunteer to take in more of the "poorest of the poor."

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj however told the Sunday edition of Die Welt his country would refuse to accept returned refugees from Europe.

"We will not accept migrants sent back to us from the EU," the head of the new unity government said. "Europe needs to find ways to return them to their home countries. They cannot stay with us."

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