Ban Ki-moon - UN.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he was concerned that European countries were closing their borders to refugees and that xenophobia was on the rise in the region.

In a speech in the Austrian parliament, Ban applauded Austria and other European countries for the generosity that they had shown so far towards refugees.

"But I am concerned that European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies," he said.

"We have a moral and political obligation to help those who are fleeing wars, human rights violations and persecution," Ban said.

He added that he was "alarmed about growing xenophobia" in and outside of Austria.

Ban addressed the parliament one day after legislators adopted a stricter asylum law that will allow the government to reject nearly all asylum seekers at the borders if it finds that public order and security are endangered by the number of arrivals.

In addition, the law makes it harder for refugees to bring family to Austria.

Austria received 90,000 asylum seekers last year, but the centrist government changed gear over the past months as it faced pressure from record public support for the opposition far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).

FPOe candidate Norbert Hofer won the first round of presidential elections on Sunday.

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