Just days after a far-right candidate topped the first round of the Austrian Presidential elections, the nation’s government has toughened its asylum laws. The BBC reports:
The new asylum law lets the government declare a “state of emergency” over the migrant crisis and reject most asylum-seekers, including those from war-torn countries such as Syria.
It also limits any successful asylum claim to three years.“These amendments are a glaring attempt to keep people out of Austria and its asylum system,” said Amnesty Europe director Gauri van Gulik.But Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said Austria had no other choice as long as “so many other EU members fail to do their part” to limit the influx of migrants and refugees.“We cannot shoulder the whole world’s burden,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Austrians are tightening their border in other ways. Shortly after the election, they imposed more stringent checks on the crossing with Hungary. And now:
Meanwhile, the police chief in Tyrol said Austria was proposing building a 400m fence at the Brenner crossing in the province.
The Europeans are currently facing multiple refugee/migrant crises in a hyperconnected world, while bound by a legal schema that was designed to deal with intra-European expulsions in the aftermath of WW2. There are obviously also political motives at play in what Austria has done, but there are also practical considerations. Italy is currently awaiting a migrant surge now that the Greco-Turkish path has been closed—which it makes sense to plan for in advance—and Europe’s asylum system is broken. Also, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the political considerations: responding to popular will while trying to head off the rise of the far-right.
Those who say that all such things are better handled at a European level are right: it would be better if the borders were being secured properly at the continental level, and refugee laws were being overhauled to deal with a world in which Europe simply cannot accept every one of the millions and millions clamoring to get in. Unfortunately, that opens a Pandora’s Box of problems, from the need for an active foreign policy in Libya and Syria to European integration questions. And nobody in Europe seems both ready to lead and able to build popular consensus for the solutions to those problems right now.Which means that state-by-state, ad hoc solutions are likely to be the order of the day for the foreseeable future. Expect more measures like Austria’s.