Late last month, we noted that Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz was set to cut social benefits for refugees who failed to attend “special integration training courses.”
Austria, like Germany and multiple other countries in the Schengen zone, is struggling to cope with the influx of asylum seekers fleeing the war-torn Mid-East. Of particular concern is the “integration” process whereby those hailing from “different cultures” are having a decidedly difficult time blending into polite Western society.
Austria has sought to ameliorate the problem by providing helpful flyers featuring cartoons that depict acceptable and unacceptable behavior and by offering classes designed to teach migrants “laws and social norms.”
Still, policymakers are skeptical. "Let’s not delude ourselves," Kurz said in January. "We have an intensive long lasting integration process ahead of us."
That “intensive, long lasting process” will be mitigated by a plan to deport some 50,000 refugees. “Last year Austria had 90,000 asylum applications,” Kurz told Aargauer Zeitung. “This number is too high for a small country, and measured in terms of population, it is the second highest in Europe after Sweden.”
Yes, “the second highest after Sweden” - and we all know how things are going in Sweden.
“We have reached the limit of feasibility,” Kurz explained, in an interview with APA. "I think 50,000 is realistic [in terms of a number to deport]."
As a reminder, Austria has already suspended Schengen, so the deportation announcement doesn't exactly come as a surprise, especially in light of similar announcements from Sweden and Finland.
What was surprising (not to mention sadly amusing) is Austria's plan to boost voluntary repatriations. According to a summary of an agreement between the interior, defense and integration ministries published on Sunday, the country will now pay migrants €500 to leave. "Now the government has decided to carry out at least 50,000 deportations over the next four years," Reuters reports. "It will also offer up to 500 euros ($542) to migrants whose asylum applications have been turned down if they agree to be deported."
"We are already among the countries with the most deportations," said Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. "But we will increase the rate further."
As for how the deportations will be carried out, Austria will reportedly load migrants up on C-130 Hercules military aircraft and drop them off in their home countries. Hopefully after landing.
Kurz also says Austria will place an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers it accepts. The cap will amount to no more than 1.5% of the population. "Anything else would overwhelm our country," Kurz says.
Meanwhile, Angela Merkel is proposing a modified Marshall Plan in an attempt to cope with the problem. "German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to raise money for refugee camps in Syria’s neighboring states to add jobs in strategy similar to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Germany after World War II," Bloomberg reports, citing Handelsblatt. "Refugees would get cash for work in camps."
Countries bordering Syria "like the plan," Handelsblatt says.
Clearly, the desperation is kicking in. Even if viable, Merkel's idea will take months (at best) to implement and Austria's plan to give migrants €500 to take a voluntary C-130 trip back where they came from reeks of desperation.
There was no immediate word on whether refugees could negotiate for larger sums in exchange for an agreement to go back home.