Austria’s Kurz defies EU as he rules out welcoming Afghan refugees
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Sebastian Kurz has opposed the idea of Austria accepting Afghans fleeing the Taliban despite thousands seeking to leave Afghanistan amid the takeover from the insurgents last week. Mr Kurz made the comments as the US, the UK, and European Union nations continue their efforts to evacuate as many people as possible from Kabul. Vienna took in more than one percent of its population in asylum seekers during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 and 2016.
Chancellor Kurz has built his career on taking a hard line on immigration, winning every parliamentary election since 2017.
Speaking to TV Channel Puts TV, Mr Kurz said: “I am clearly opposed to us now voluntarily taking in more people and that will not happen during my chancellorship.”
The chancellor also said people fleeing Afghanistan should stay in the region because neighbouring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan had only taken in 14 and 13 Afghan refugees respectively.
Instead of accepting refugees, Kurz said that they “must do everything in our power” to improve the situation in Afghanistan, specifically regarding concerns about women’s rights under the Taliban rule.
Sebastian Kurz opposes taking afghans (Image: TRT world)
Afghans trying to flee Kabul airport (Image: TRT world)
The European Union has been grappling with what to do with Afghans who assisted it over the past 20 years.
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.
While the UN deals with the Afghans who helped it over the past 20 years, Kurz said coming to Austria for refuge was not an option.
There are said to be 14,000 people inside this airfield, controlled by the US military, waiting to board flights at Kabul airport.
The UK is preparing to appeal to the Taliban to extend the 31 August deadline for western forces to leave Kabul.
Boris Johnson will urge US President Joe Biden this week to extend the evacuation deadline from Afghanistan, but even if one is agreed, the West will also need the approval of the Taliban.
However, the Taliban have already warned the US and the UK will face “consequences” should the evacuation efforts protract past August 31.
The Prime Minister will host a virtual meeting of leaders from the G7 advanced economies on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan where thousands of people have descended on Kabul airport in a bid to flee the Taliban.
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Who’s in control in Afghanistan (Image: EXPRESS.CO.UK)
Minister for the armed forces James Heappey said Britain was pushing for the deadline to be pushed beyond Aug. 31 after it identified thousands of people, including Afghan citizens, that it wants to help evacuate.
“Even though they are the seven most powerful people on the planet they don’t get to take that decision in isolation. The Taliban get a vote as well and that’s why we’re continuing to work towards the 31st,” Heappey told LBC radio.
“Even if the political will in London, Washington, Paris, Berlin is for an extension, the Taliban may say no,” he said.
The British government is also seeking new sanctions against the Taliban.
The Islamist group seized power as the United States and its allies withdrew their troops after a 20-year war launched in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.