Austria Considers Prolonging Border Controls Amid Ongoing Migrant Influx

Austria Considers Prolonging Border Controls Amid Ongoing Migrant Influx

Austrian officials are considering keeping temporary border controls with nearby European countries. This is in response to increasing migration flows.

Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said during a joint press conference that keeping strong borders might still be needed because the European Union’s (EU) external borders are vulnerable.

Government officials call for prolonged vigilance 

Karner emphasized, “As long as the EU’s external borders are not functioning, stationary border controls cannot be lifted.”

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann also expressed concern, noting that Germany has a high number of people applying for asylum without proper documentation of their entry.

Criticisms raised over proposed measures

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party criticized Karner’s plan to extend controls, calling it “theatrics.” They want to ban asylum immediately because of rising tensions.

The announcement comes after increasing concerns about the impact of a large number of migrants on regional security systems and immigration processes.

Authorities continue monitoring the situation amid calls for heightened prudence.

Austria’s population swells amid Ukrainian influx

According to Statistics Austria, the population of Austria increased by over 125,000 people as of January 1, 2023, compared to 2022. This is the largest annual increase since World War II.

Director General Tobias Thomas mentioned that most of this growth came from people moving into the country, with around 137,000 more people immigrating than emigrating last year.

Specifically, over 78,000 Ukrainians entered while under 12,000 departed amid 2022’s conflict, alongside increased Syrian and German influxes.

This compounds Austria’s over 1.7 million non-nationals now comprising 19% of the total populace, up from 17.7% last January 2022.

The capital Vienna witnessed the highest migration and population surges at 49,000 and 2.6% respectively.

More extensive screening possible

The possible expansion of border controls might affect people from the EU who want to visit or move to another EU country. By 2025, travelers to the EU will be subject to the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

Increased attention to the Schengen Area’s borders might also mean that travelers, including families, students, and digital nomads, will undergo more thorough checks.

However, ETIAS aims to facilitate tourism and business while strengthening security.

Putting migration policies under review

Suggestions for enhancing boundary checks are part of larger discussions in Europe about finding the right balance in immigration policies.

The recent influx tests EU states’ capacities under existing Schengen and refugee rules. 

As countries such as Austria push for stricter controls at their borders, it brings attention to areas where better coordination or policy changes are needed to maintain security and allow access.

Stepping up regional coordination

Austrian officials are stressing the importance of making European borders stronger and ensuring that people entering the region follow the rules. This is to deal with the increasing number of people moving from one place to another.

As policy discussions continue, officials must find a balance between keeping borders secure and meeting legal and humanitarian duties.