Austria not ready to take in more Afghans

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Afghan refugees, who agreed to be photographed on the condition that they not be identified because of security concerns, sit during an interview with an Associated Press journalist in Bensalem, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

BERLIN – Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his country is not prepared to take in more Afghans and will not back a Europe-wide system for distributing refugees from Afghanistan across the European Union.

Asked about proposals for all EU countries to share the burden of taking in refugees, Kurz told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that Austria had already taken in a “bigger than proportionate share” of migrants since 2015.

Austria already has the fourth largest Afghan community worldwide, he said ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel said that, for her government, the focus now is on how to help up to 40,000 Afghans who are entitled to come to Germany with their close family because they had worked for the German military or aid organizations.

“We need to see how many actually want to leave the country and how many don’t,” she said. “That will depend very much on the circumstances the Taliban create in the country.”

Speaking at a separate event, Germany’s interior minister said his country is willing to take in Afghans who are at particular risk of persecution, but declined to say how many.

“I don’t think it’s wise if we talk about numbers here, because numbers obviously trigger a pull effect and we don’t want that,” said the minister, Horst Seehofer.

He urged all 27 EU countries to agree on a common asylum policy, noting that “so far Austria hasn’t been prepared to do so, up to now.

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