Austrian foreign minister says migrants should be kept on islands

Asylum seekers to the European Union should be held on islands rather than be allowed direct access to the continent, Austria’s foreign minister has said. Sebastian Kurz suggested in an interview with Die Presse newspaper published on Sunday that the bloc follow the “Australian example” to discourage migrants from setting out on the often perilous journey to Europe. Under Australia’s policy, asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are turned back or sent to Pacific camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea where they are held indefinitely while their refugee applications are processed.

The Australian model of course cannot be completely replicated but its principles can be applied in Europe.

Sebastian Kurz

A similar model was used in the United States in the first half of the 20th century, with new arrivals being held on Ellis Island as they travelled to New York, he said. Kurz added that the EU should adopt a resolution whereby those who try to enter Europe illegally lose their right to demand asylum. Austria, governed by a coalition of social-democrats and conservatives, welcomed some 90,000 asylum seekers last year, but since then Vienna has hardened its conditions of asylum and tried to close the migrant route from Greece to the north of Europe via the Balkans. Last month, a candidate from the far-right Freedom Party narrowly lost the election for the largely ceremonial but coveted post of president.