In an effort to stop migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, Austria's chancellor has said EU border patrol guards should be sent to northern Africa. Sebastian Kurz has made cracking down on immigration a priority.
Frontex border control agents should be allowed to operate in northern Africa in order to prevent further migration to Europe, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag,published on Sunday.
Kurz's comments appeared to foreshadow the Austrian government's plans for when it takes over the EU Presidency for six months starting in July.
What Kurz proposed:
Kurz said Frontex needs "a clear political mandate" with the governments of northern African countries that would allow EU border guards to operate there.
He added that the mandate should give agents the ability to "end the dirty business model of human traffickers and to prevent smuggler boats from even setting out on the dangerous journey over the Mediterranean."
Frontex employees should also "stop illegal migrants on the external borders, tend to them, and then ideally send them immediately back to their home country or transit country, the conservative Austrian leader said.
He supports the European Commission's plan to boost the number of Frontex border guards by 10,000 by the year 2027. He took issue however with the timeline, saying the personnel boost "has to happen much faster."
'I am very worried:' Kurz also told the paper that he doesn't think EU-wide quotas to more evenly distribute refugees around the 28-member bloc are realistic. He also said he's concerned about the in-fighting in Europe, saying: "In the EU, there are always morally superior people who think they have to educate the others. I'm very worried about that."
What is Frontex? Frontex is the European Union's boarder and coast guard agency. It patrols the border of the European Schengen Area and is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland.
EU quota 'compromise:' The European Commission pushed through temporary refugee quotas in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa came to Europe. Some 900,000 asylum-seekers entered Germany that year alone. Eastern European countries have either refused or resisted taking in people seeking asylum.
Bulgaria, who currently has the rotating EU Council Presidency, floated a compromise wherein mandatory redistribution quotas should only go into effect in the event of another large flow of migrants, like the one seen in 2015.
Kurz's alliance with far-right: The Austrian chancellor's conservatives formed a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in December. His government has taken a hardline stance on immigration and asylum-seekers.