Austria and Somalia Intensify Cooperation on Migration and Security in the Horn of Africa

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: June 22, 2023; 23:50 ♦ (Vindobona)

Somalia's Foreign Minister Abshir Omar Huruse arrived in Vienna for working talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg. This visit marked an intensified effort by Austria to develop relations with African states. The talks focused on bilateral relations, particularly concerning illegal migration, the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers, and the security situation in the Horn of Africa.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (r.) received his counterpart from Somalia Abshir Omar Huruse (l.) in Vienna. / Picture: © BMEIA Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres / Gruber / Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg began by welcoming the exchanges between Austria and Somalia that had already taken place at the EU-Africa Summit 2022 and between the speakers of the parliaments of the two countries. However, he stressed that there was still room for deepening relations at the bilateral level, especially in the area of trade.

Another issue Foreign Minister Schallenberg raised in his talks with his Somali counterpart was the need to jointly combat smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal migration, as well as to cooperate more closely on repatriations.

"The European asylum and migration system can only work if we protect those who need it. At the same time, we must be able to consistently return those who do not meet the requirements for asylum to their countries of origin," Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed.

Austria currently ranks fourth within the EU after Germany, France, and the Netherlands as a destination country for Somali asylum seekers. Since Somalia has been one of the countries with the highest number of asylum applications in Austria for years, Foreign Minister Schallenberg announced the start of a structured migration dialogue with his Somali counterpart.

"Our common goal is to ensure that people are not forced to leave Somalia in the first place and that returnees are integrated quickly," Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed.

Concerning the security situation in Somalia, Foreign Minister Schallenberg also highlighted the threat posed by terrorism to all states: "The fight against Islamist extremism is a common challenge. Terrorism has already found its way into Austria as well - we are not an island of the blessed. That is why we are counting on strong cooperation between the EU and Somalia."

Foreign Minister Schallenberg explicitly praised the Somali central government for its successes in the fight against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. In the broader regional context, Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed that the Horn of Africa is a top priority for Austria and that a conflagration in the region must be avoided at all costs. Stabilizing Somalia and the entire region was therefore clearly in Austria's interest.