09:12 GMT30 November 2020
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    Interior ministers from 28 European states held their first meeting since Austria took the helm of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency; the country is trying to win support for its proposals for toughening the bloc’s stance on immigration issues.

    Speaking after a meeting with his EU counterparts in the Austrian city of Innsbruck, Austria’s Interior Minister Herbert Kickl noted that there had been “a very wide consensus on the need for protecting the EU’s external border,” including the enhancement of the EU border agency Frontex.

    READ MORE: Germany's Interior Minister Presents Hard-Line Master Plan for Migration

    Kickl also stated that they agreed that the so-called disembarkation platforms for migrants rescued in international waters should be set up in conformity with international law and in a way “which is helpful in relations with third states.”

    He further suggested such platforms may be located in North Africa and could act as test cases for how those centers would operate, although they are unlikely to process migrant asylum claims.

    Meanwhile, Kickl’s German counterpart Horst Seehofer voiced certain optimism about the possibility of reaching an agreement with a third country, citing the 2016 migration deal between the EU and Turkey, designed to deter refugees from arriving in Europe, as an example of fruitful cooperation.

    The ministers, however, are said to be have been more reluctant in showing support for Austria’s more hardline proposals, including setting up “return centers” outside the union for people denied asylum who cannot be immediately sent back to their home country.

    READ MORE: Austrian and Bavarian Leaders Say Migration Issue May 'Ruin Democracy' in EU

    In the meantime, Kickl, Seehofer and Italy’s Matteo Salvini formed the so-called axis of the willing to curb migrant departures and landings in Europe in line with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s proposal.

    Earlier this month, the European Council summit agreed on the establishment of "regional disembarkation platforms in close cooperation with relevant third countries" and control centers in the EU member states to process asylum applications.

    Austria has been pushing to shift Europe’s attention away from the settlement of refugees across the bloc to strengthening the defense of its external borders since the right-wing chancellor came to power.

    Since 2015 Europe has been experiencing a severe migration crisis due to the massive influx of immigrants and refugees fleeing war zones and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The EU has been struggling to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees, but the calls to distribute the immigration burden among all member-states were resisted many EU nations.

    migration crisis, migration centers, refugee, asylum, migration, Herbert Kickl, Horst Seehofer, Matteo Salvini, Sebastian Kurz, Italy, Germany, EU, Austria
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