June 23. 2024. 2:07

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Austria to request extension of border controls with Hungary, Slovenia

Interior Minister Gerhard Karner wants to apply to the European Commission to extend border controls with Hungary and Slovenia for another six months, the minister said on Tuesday.

Karner said it would be “necessary to continue to consistently put on the asylum brakes and prevent asylum abuse,” he told Ö1 on Tuesday, APA reported.

The current border controls, which run until 11 May, have contributed to the decrease in asylum applications received each month, according to the minister, who pointed to numbers dropping from 12,000 in November to 2,600 in February.

Approval from the Commission, which is needed in case member states want to prolong border checks six months after they already extended them for that period – which Austria already did – is required in order to ensure the “security of the Austrian population” as long as the EU’s external border is not protected, the minister added.

Austria had to react “in time” to the significant increase in migration pressure in Slovenia and Italy in the past months because the situation Austria experienced last year had to be avoided “at all costs”, said Karner, adding that “pressure on the trafficking mafia” should be increased.

While about 80 traffickers have been arrested this year, Karner said the number of asylum requests in Austria tripled last year to 108,490 applications when compared to the previous year, making it the EU nation with the sharpest increase overall.

Austria has been one of the leading EU drivers speaking out for a harder line on migration, with its veto in December against Bulgaria and Romania joining the visa-free Schengen area and its call for more robust border protection during a meeting of EU interior ministers in Stockholm.

Karner also visited the Turkish-Bulgarian border with Chancellor Karl Nehammer in January, where Nehammer sharply criticised Brussels for refusing to help Bulgaria protect its border with €2 billion in funding.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)