Austria opposes taking in more Afghans; EU says no recognition for Taliban

Reuters
Vienna Published: Aug 22, 2021, 12:04 PM(IST)

Taliban fighters (representative image). Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

While the European Union grapples with what to do with Afghans who assisted it over the past 20 years, Chancellor Kurz said coming to Austria was not an option.

Austria's conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz opposes taking in any more people fleeing Afghanistan now that the Taliban have seized power, he said in remarks published on Sunday.

Austria took in more than one per cent of its population in asylum seekers during Europe's migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, and Kurz has built his career on taking a hard line on immigration, winning every parliamentary election since 2017.

While the European Union grapples with what to do with Afghans who assisted it over the past 20 years, Kurz said coming to Austria was not an option.

Watch:

"I am clearly opposed to us now voluntarily taking in more people and that will not happen during my chancellorship," Kurz said in an interview with TV channel Puls 24. Excerpts of the interview were released before it was broadcast later on Sunday.

Austria has more than 40,000 Afghan refugees, the second-biggest number in Europe after Germany, which has 148,000, according to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR for 2020. 

The European Union has not recognised the Taliban, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday, nor is it holding political talks with the militants, a week after they seized control of Afghanistan.

The Taliban completed a lightning takeover of Afghanistan on Sunday, walking into the capital Kabul without firing a shot.

The head of the EU executive spoke after visiting a reception centre in Madrid for Afghan employees of EU institutions evacuated from Kabul.

Von der Leyen said she would propose an increase of $67 million in humanitarian aid which the Commission had allocated this year for Afghanistan.

She said EU development aid is tied to respect of human rights, good treatment of minorities and respect for the rights of women and girls.

"We may well hear the Taliban's words but we will measure them above all by their deeds and actions," von der Leyen told a news conference.

She said the Commission was ready to provide funding to EU countries which help resettle refugees, and she planned to raise the resettlement issue at a G7 meeting next week.

After a peak in 2015 when more than one million migrants came to the EU, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the EU has cut the number of arrivals thanks to a deal with Turkey which receives EU funds to host asylum seekers in its territory.

Read in App