The situation is not new, the mayor said. He could not explain why “we are still arguing about it”. In the ZIB2 interview, he advocated better quality in the federal institutions on the one hand and better arrival capacities in Austria on the other.
Babeler did not shy away from sharply criticizing the federal government’s approach. “As you can see today, this is a desired topic to distract from other things that are not good for the ÖVP,” said Babler’s “concrete accusation”.
Traiskirchen hopelessly overcrowded
The initial reception center in Traiskirchen is hopelessly overcrowded because nobody is distributing the migrants to the other federal states. Traiskirchen’s Mayor Andreas Babler (SPÖ) was a guest in ZIB2 on Thursday.
15a agreement “toothless”
For years, the 15a agreement between the federal government and the states on joint measures for temporary basic care for foreigners in need of help and protection would not work if more refugees had to be cared for. “The federal government alone is responsible for refugee policy and admission, which means that there is direct responsibility in the Ministry of the Interior for the failures and human tragedies that we experience first-hand in Traiskirchen”.
The accommodation of refugees has been an “election campaign issue” since 2015, the 15a agreement is still “toothless”. What is needed is “a proper admission and care law with rights and obligations of the federal states and at the same time good and high-quality care,” Babler continued.
It would be about 4,000 places in basic care in seven federal states – that’s a small number. According to Babeler, a European solution would not be possible if distribution was not even established in Austria.
Right of access demanded by the Ministry of the Interior
In fact, during the last major refugee crisis, there were significantly more places available than now. According to calculations by the asylum coordination, there were around 15,000 more. That would suggest that there is definitely still capacity available to avoid the homelessness feared by the Federal Care Agency for Care and Support Services (BBU).
The BBU and the Ministry of the Interior cannot actively do much, because the right of access to the countries that the then Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) had in the last refugee crisis has long since expired.
When asked whether he thought it would make sense for the Ministry of the Interior to give it a new right of access, Babler gave a “clear answer: Yes.” However, he referred to the temporary aspect: A right of access is a constitutional matter and you have to be careful with it. “It’s just about changing the situation now, because there are now people who are treated badly in Austria.”
“No directional dispute” in SPÖ
Despite different statements from the federal states, Babler found “no” directional dispute within the SPÖ. However, what he recommends to “his” SPÖ is that the topic “should not be immersed for strategic reasons”. “And I believe that we in the SPÖ, based on a consistent humanity and attitude with this small number of refugees – if you look at it soberly, spread over seven federal states – see that they are well looked after, then there is no concern for the mayors or the population, on the contrary.”
Meeting as a “wake-up call” to the EU Commission
Before the special EU meeting on migration on Friday afternoon, the interior ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary agreed their positions at a meeting in Prague on Thursday. The migration problem affects all EU countries and must be solved at the external borders of the Schengen area, according to the unified message after the meeting between Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) and his counterparts Vit Rakusan (Czech Republic), Sandor Pinter (Hungary) and Roman Mikulec (Slovakia).
The aim of the meeting was to draw attention to the difficult situation in the region due to the increasing number of migrant arrivals on the point out the Western Balkans route.
Karner wanted to see the meeting as “a wake-up call” to the EU Commission. “Especially on the Western Balkans route, the situation is dramatic, as we can see every day in Austria. I expect the Commission to make concrete proposals here on how we can make external border protection more legally and technically robust and how we can better combat illegal migration. We will contribute our ideas constructively,” said Karner.
“Legal Instruments to Protect Borders”
The four interior ministers spoke out in favor of the EU Commission releasing additional funds for measures to combat illegal migration. Specifically, Austria wants to demand at the special EU meeting on Friday, according to the Ministry of the Interior, that the Commission pay for police operations abroad that serve to protect the border, fight organized gangs of people smugglers and fight illegal migration.
“We need legal and technical instruments to protect the external border so that we don’t need the (internal) borders between our countries,” says Karner.
The Czech interior minister continued to be receptive to Ukrainian migrants. The Czech Republic could imagine taking in tens of thousands more refugees from Ukraine. However, it is already “at the limit of capacity” in terms of accommodation and the social and health system. According to Rakusan, the Czech Republic has taken in the most Ukrainian refugees in the EU, based on the number of inhabitants.