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Thursday 23 January 2020

Austria set to shut border with Italy to avoid 'extreme situation' with migrants

Migrants at a camp at the northern Greek border point of Idomeni (AP)
Migrants at a camp at the northern Greek border point of Idomeni (AP)

Austria is prepared to completely close the main border crossing to Italy in case an influx of migrants leads to an "extreme situation", the country's defence minister has said.

Hans Peter Doskozil said such a move at the Brenner crossing would be taken if Italy refused to accept migrants turned back by Austria and they could not proceed to Germany, according to state broadcaster ORF.

Mr Doskozil said Austria has registered between 16,000 and 17,000 applications for asylum since the start of the year.

The country has announced a cap of 37,500 applications for 2016 after receiving about 90,000 last year.

He expressed scepticism about the EU-Turkey agreement on migrant returns, saying: "We don't know how long the deal will last."

Meanwhile, Germany's governing parties have agreed a broad range of measures to help the country integrate those of the 1.1 million migrants who arrived last year who have been granted asylum.

The measures, which will be discussed with state governors before they are formalised to present to Parliament, seek to strike a balance between giving migrants easier access to jobs and integration courses, while increasing expectations of them.

The parties reportedly hope to create thousands of government-funded job opportunities for migrants, and aim to suspend for three years a rule that asylum seekers are initially excluded from jobs unless no German or EU citizen can fill them.

Waiting times for integration courses teaching German will be reduced, but they will be made mandatory for more migrants.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters the proposals make clear that "there are duties and obligations for all who come to us".

One of the key components to Ms Merkel's attempts to deal with the influx of migrants has been to streamline the system so that those fleeing conflict and persecution and likely to receive asylum will receive it faster, whereas so-called "economic" migrants unlikely to receive asylum will be sent home quickly.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the idea of creating an integration law for the first time in Germany was a "historic step" and called the proposed measures "a good foundation".

PA Media

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