Austria’s federal states have agreed on a common approach to dealing with the current influx of asylum seekers. At a governors’ conference in Klagenfurt they approved admission quotas and the establishment of new asylum ‘distribution centres’.
The Interior Ministry will remain responsible for the initial reception of refugees. All nine states have pledged to fulfil their quotas by January 31st.
Carinthia’s governor Peter Kaiser chaired the conference but did not say where or when the new distribution centres would be built. However, he did say that in future it should take no longer than 48 hours to process and house new refugees.
Burgenland will cooperate closely with Vienna, its governor Hans Niessl said.
Lower Austria’s governor Erwin Pröll said that as his state is already meeting its quota, in the overcrowded Traiskirchen refugee camp, there would be no need to build further centres, but that the other states would strive to meet their targets.
Pröll said that the size of the distribution centres would depend on the size of the state. In Vorarlberg, with a population of just over 373,000, a centre for between 30 and 40 refugees would be enough.
Kaiser said that it would make sense to build a new reception centre in Tyrol, as many refugees arrive there after crossing the Italian border and Tyrol’s Brenner Pass is already a known refugee route.
Styria’s governor Franz Voves rejected the idea of sanctioning states which failed to meet their asylum quotas but agreed that states should be allocated a figure by the Interior Ministry.
He said he sympathised with Vienna mayor Michael Häupl’s viewpoint that “the Viennese should not be treated like the nation’s idiots”, as Vienna has already more than fulfilled its quota.
Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner welcomed what she said was a “historic realignment” and said that the refugee crisis would no longer be primarily borne by the centres in Traiskirchen and Thalham (in Upper Austria).
She added that in the future Traiskirchen would not accommodate more than 500 refugees – it is currently home to more than 1,600.
Austria, with 8.5 million residents, received around 17,500 asylum requests in 2013, mostly from Russia, Afghanistan and Syria, according to official statistics.