Austrian top diplomat: No refugee distribution without migration stop

Reluctant EU countries will not start taking in refugees unless the inflow is sharply reduced, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told dpa on Saturday, ahead of the EU-Turkey migration summit early next week.

"It must be clear that the number of refugees reaching Europe would come down very quickly if we would stop people in Greece," the conservative minister said, defending the tough border policies in Austria and Balkan countries that have left migrants stranded in Greece.

Kurz said he felt encouraged by Donald Tusk's appeal to potential economic migrants to stay home, and by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent statement against sending refugees on along the migration route from Greece to Western Europe.

"These are policies that finally point to the right direction," Kurz said.

"In the medium term, countries that are currently opposed to redistribution could become ready to take in refugees.

"But such a distribution is not realistic as long as there is such a high inflow, and as long as countries are aware that such a policy [of waving through migrants] results in more and more arrivals," he said.

Kurz dismissed concerns that Austria's border restrictions and the measures that Balkan countries took in reaction caused a crisis in Greece by trapping migrants and refugees in the country.

"The truth is that there are only 25,000 refugees in Greece now. That is about a quarter of the number in Austria," he said.

Austria took in 90,000 refugees last year but has reversed course in recent months, arguing that national border measures were needed in the absence of a tangible EU-wide distribution policy.

Looking ahead to the summit on Monday, Kurz said he not only hoped that the outflow from Greece can be stopped, but that cooperation with Turkey and aid for Syrian refugees in the Middle East could be additional elements in a policy package to deal with the migration crisis.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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