“That will not happen under my chancellorship,” said Sebastian Kurz about a possible admission of a contingent refugee. Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, who, like Kurz, is a politician of the Christian-democratic ÖVP, also takes the line of the head of government. The contradiction of the Greens, the small partner in the “turquoise-green” coalition in Vienna, was audible, but powerless. In the government program it was de facto agreed that the ÖVP can implement its restrictive asylum and migration policy, if necessary with other majorities – that would then mean that it could work with the right-wing FPÖ.
Vienna’s tough stance in the debate about the admission of Afghans is hardly surprising. Austria took a similar position when it was asked to accept refugees from the Greek initial reception center Moria, which burned down last year. The reason for this positioning is obvious: the ÖVP under Kurz has been made the strongest force by voters twice in a row for this very reason. This briefly stops the decline of the old, “black” ÖVP – and at the same time the rise of the FPÖ, which just a few years ago seemed to be on the way to becoming the strongest force in Austria.
Vienna does not see itself as being directly responsible
Some media now suspect that the ÖVP is looking at the state elections in Upper Austria with its current rides or even more recently at an ORF interview by FPÖ boss Herbert Kickl, who has apparently been overtaken on the right. That is rejected in the ranks of the ÖVP. The timing, it is said, has to do with the fact that the state is collapsing in Afghanistan and that there is great concern about a new wave of illegal, uncontrolled migration.
“We must not repeat the mistakes of 2015”, Kurz also said, similar to the CDU chairman Armin Laschet of these days. One difference to Germany is that Vienna does not see itself directly responsible in a comparable way. Although not a member of NATO, Austria took part in the Western military mission in Afghanistan with soldiers, until 2015 with small contingents, until recently with individual soldiers. But “own” local staff, who should now be brought out, have not been employed, it is said.
Vienna rejects the accusation of evading solidarity obligations. Chancellor Kurz recalled that a large number of Afghans have already found acceptance in Austria. The Wiener Zeitung Presse has compiled figures for 2020: According to this, Austria has taken in 40,096 refugees from Afghanistan registered by the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Fear of being deported from Germany
That is more than in the much larger France or Italy, only in Germany it is more. At present, too, migrants are coming to Austria via the “Balkan route”, which is once again being used more heavily. So far this year there are around 8,000, of which a fifth comes from Afghanistan. The government is even criticized for this by the “right” wing of the Social Democrats. In fact, Kurz did not say anything about an absolute admission freeze, as actually practiced in Hungary. With words like “voluntarily” or “additionally” he turned against contingent solutions.
Vienna is not so concerned with the absolute numbers of such refugee contingents, which would probably die for Austria, but with a feared signal to people smugglers and people who migrate illegally. Accordingly, Nehammer harshly criticized the EU Commission for its “very short-sighted and ideologically misguided policy”, it “constantly sends the wrong messages”. In Vienna they also know: If there were a wave of migration like 2015, then Dublin provisions to Hungary or Greece would not be possible due to European case law – but from Germany to Austria it would be.