slovenia austria migrants.jpg
Photograph: EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

Nearly 400 migrants arrived Saturday from Slovenia at Austria's main border crossing for asylum seekers, the first to reach the Spielfeld checkpoint since the introduction of a new quota system, an Austrian police spokeswoman told dpa.

In a move criticized by the European Commission, the government in Vienna decided this week to take in only 80 asylum seekers per day while allowing a further 3,200 to transit daily through the country to other European destinations.

It would become clear only later Saturday whether the daily limit of 80 would be reached and people would have to wait in Slovenia overnight, spokeswoman Madeleine Heinrich said in Spielfeld.

Another 400 people were expected to arrive Sunday.

The quota system was introduced Friday, but no refugees and migrants reached Spielfeld that day.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos wrote in an official letter to Vienna on Thursday that the quota system runs counter to European and international law, which stipulates that all asylum requests have to be accepted. At the same time, he said Austria should not wave through migrants.

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner pointed out Saturday that asylum seekers are arriving at Austria's borders after having been let through other EU countries along the route from Greece through the Balkans.

"If everyone heeded the content of the letter, Austria would not have any problems. The letter was apparently sent to the wrong address," she said in remarks distributed by her spokesman.

Austria has received 11,000 asylum claims so far this year, following last year's 90,000. The government plans to cap this year's number at 37,500.

Vienna's new policy has already caused a number of temporary border closures along the Balkan routes, as well as concerns that Greece could soon be faced with surging numbers of migrants who are unable to travel on.

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