Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria opposes taking in any more people fleeing Afghanistan now that the Taliban have seized power, he said in remarks published on 22 August.
Austria had taken in more than 1% of its population as asylum seekers during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 and 2016. Kurz built his career on taking a hard line on immigration, winning every parliamentary election since 2017.
While the European Union grapples with what to do with Afghans who cooperated with the union it over the past 20 years, Sebastian Kurz said coming to Austria was not an option. “I am clearly opposed to us now voluntarily taking in more people and that will not happen during my chancellorship,” Sebastian Kurz said in an interview with television channel Puls 24. Excerpts of the interview were released before it was broadcast later on 22 August.
Austria has more than 40,000 Afghan refugees, the second-biggest number in Europe after Germany, which has 148,000, according to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR for 2020. Austria’s population is nine times smaller than Germany’s.
Austria is a neutral country and not a member of NATO. It sent only a very small number of troops to Afghanistan. NATO’s website lists it as having sent 16 troops for the Resolute Support Mission, an effort to train and advise the Afghan security forces. “I am not of the opinion that we should take in more people. Quite the opposite,” Kurz said of Afghans fleeing their country.
“Austria has made a disproportionately large contribution,” Sebastian Kurz said, referring to the large number of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers already in the country. He said people fleeing Afghanistan should stay in the region, adding that neighbouring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan had only taken in 14 and 13 Afghan refugees respectively, which matches the UNHCR data.