Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner at the start of the EU Justice and Home Affairs council in Luxembourg, 19 October 2023. EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND


Austria to work with UK on Rwanda-style plan for migrants


Austria has signed an agreement with the UK to work more closely on migration. Vienna wants to deport asylum seekers to a third nation by implementing a treaty similar to the UK-Rwanda plan.

Austrian interior minister Gerhard Karner and UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman held talks about using “safe” third countries to reduce the impact of mass illegal migration.

Karner said: “The UK has a lot of experience when it comes to processing asylum applications outside of Europe in the future. That was an important theme in my meeting with the Home Secretary in Vienna because Austria can benefit from this experience.”

Both countries have now struck a “migration and security agreement” where they will work more closely together on the issues.

With this, Austria becomes the first European Union country to work with the UK on the deportation of asylum seekers. That is despite the original British plan being held up in a legal battle in the UK’s Supreme Court.

Denmark has also been working on similar plans and those are also held up, but the country has an opt-out on asylum and migration policy in the EU.

A major difference between the UK plan and the Austrian version is that the latter will allow successful applicants to come to Austria, while those rejected will be returned to their home country.

The UK plan aims to keep successful applicants in Rwanda unless they would be at risk of “serious and irreversible harm”.

London has been encouraging its European allies to update international agreements relating to asylum, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UN Refugee Convention.

Britain, as with many countries in the EU, is reeling under the pressure of mass migration, which is causing societal problems and raising political tensions.

Karner said: “We will continue to make a consistent effort for the EU Commission to advance and enable such procedures outside of Europe.”

Austria has been tougher on migration than many other European countries, employing a strict asylum policy.

It now wants to enact new legislation to expedite the deportation of immigrants to “safe countries of origin”.

Karner also suggested “a pilot project for rapid asylum procedures at the EU’s external borders”.

Brussels also seems to open up to such plans as it tries to come to terms with problems regarding Tunisia over migration, while record numbers of arrivals to the EU come in via Spain and Italy.

Although there are a host of difficulties on this front, Europe does intend to do more such deals with other countries.

The idea for keeping borders tightly closed and using third countries to shelter asylum seekers originated in Australia.

That country overhauled its migration policy when it was facing a major immigration crisis and as many refugees died while trying to reach its shores.

Stricter rules and tight border controls were implemented, with no chance for illegal migrants to stay in the country.

The effects have seen attempts to illegally reach Australia virtually ended and the number of migrants dying at sea has dropped close to zero.