Austria is to step up the deportation of migrants by sending at least 50,000 home just as Germany has told refugees that their welcome was temporary.
Last September the two countries opened their borders to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa and the Middle East. Despite an outpouring of sympathy for their plight, there has been growing public concern about crime and security, forcing the governments to pull back from the open-door policy.
Yesterday the Austrian authorities said that they would carry out at least 50,000 deportations over the next four years. The number of asylum claims would also be capped at 127,500 during that time.
Austria followed Germany’s lead in adding Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to the list of “safe countries of origin”, effectively making asylum applications from these states impossible.
About 1.1 million migrants poured into Germany last year. Fears have mounted over the past few weeks after claims that men of North African and Arab origin assaulted women in Cologne and other cities at New Year.
In an attempt to reassure the public as support for her policies waned, Chancellor Merkel promised that most refugees from Syria and Iraq would go home “once the conflicts there had ended”.