Austria, Morocco agree to cooperate more on irregular migration
Austria and Morocco agreed to cooperate better in the fight against irregular migration, by focusing on smugglers and rapid repatriation, according to an agreement between Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and his Moroccan counterpart Aziz Akhannouchs as part of Nehammer’s three-day state visit that started on Monday.
Nehammer, the first Austrian chancellor to visit the country, arrived in Morocco accompanied by Interior Minister Gerhard Karner, Secretary General of the Foreign Office Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal and a high-ranking business delegation. Nehammer’s visit also marked the 240th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Vienna and Morocco.
”The asylum figures clearly show: there is a dangerous mixing of asylum and migration from safe countries of origin like Morocco. We must, therefore further apply the asylum brake and make more speed on the issue of repatriations,” said Nehammer, according to his spokesperson in Morocco, APA reported.
To ensure cooperation on the repatriation of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected, the two states agreed to a working group meeting at least every three months and to an Austrian expert delegation visiting Morocco.
There will also be cooperation between security forces in police dogs and training.
The reason for reinforcing cooperation with Morocco on such matters is likely due to Austria being particularly affected by irregular migration from Morocco and, according to the Austrian Interior Ministry, the “brutal machinations of the smuggling mafia”, APA reported.
More than 1,300 people from Morocco would have applied for asylum in January 2023 alone, about 28% of all asylum applications in Austria that month.
Last year, the number of asylum requests in Austria tripled to 108,490 applications, making it the EU nation with the sharpest increase overall.
Morocco is one of the countries with which the EU has unsuccessfully negotiated a readmission agreement for rejected asylum seekers for years.
Austria has been one of the main drivers of the recent European Council summit focused on migration, with its recent veto against Bulgaria and Romania joining the visa-free Schengen area, and its call for a harder line on migration during a meeting of EU interior ministers in Stockholm.
Nehammer has also been working on an alliance within the EU to push the Commission into stronger border protection, visiting the Turkish-Bulgarian border together with Karner in January. (Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)