Austria will limit the number of migrants it lets in to 3,200 a day from Friday, the country’s interior minister has announced, turning an annual cap on asylum claims into a daily entry quota that is likely to cause backlogs on the main refugee route into Europe.
Austria, the last stop on the way to Germany for the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who have flocked to Europe since September, is increasingly diverging from its big neighbour by taking steps to restrict the influx.
“We must apply the brakes step by step,” Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters on Wednesday.
Austrias move to tighter border controls is seconded by Slovenia, which plans similar policies in solidarity.
“A backlog could develop, but Slovenia will also take further steps in agreement with us,” she said.
Germany is also likely to announce its own border restrictions, Mikl-Leitner said, without elaborating.
The Slovenian Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar said Slovenia would step up controls on the border with its European Union neighbour Croatia, which is not part of the Schengen zone of free movement within Europe.
“The number of migrants Slovenia will receive will be within the (daily) quota imposed by Austria,” she told a news conference.
After initially throwing open its borders with Germany six months ago, Austria has progressively tightened its entry restrictions, first largely in step with Berlin, and now apparently without Germanys approval.
About 1000 migrants a day have been arriving at Austrias busiest crossing, on the Slovenia border – far fewer than the 15,700 who came from Hungary in one day at the height of the migration crisis, but the pace is expected to pick up in spring.
Vienna will also cap asylum claims at 80 a day, Mikl-Leitner said.
Over a year, that is 20 per cent below Austrias maximum of 37,500 for 2015, but Mikl-Leitner said the relatives of successful asylum seekers also needed to be factored in to the annual total.