Austria and Switzerland Agreed On Action Plan Against Migration

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: September 28, 2022; 21:45 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria and Switzerland want to cooperate even more closely in the fight against irregular migration. During a visit by Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner to his Swiss counterpart Karin Keller-Sutter in Switzerland, a joint action plan was agreed upon. At the common border, cooperation is to be intensified in priority actions. In addition, pressure is to be exerted on Balkan countries such as Serbia to restrict the current visa rules.

On September 28, 2022, Austrian Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner and Swiss Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter signed the new "Austria - Switzerland Action Plan" in Zurich. / Picture: © Swiss and Austrian crossed flags by Vindobona

It is the common goal of Austria and Switzerland to take measures to prevent irregular migration to or from Europe, according to the Austrian Ministry of Interior. The phenomenon of irregular migration, especially via the Western Balkans route, also affects the common border area of both the border area of both states and has been sharply criticized by Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner to his Swiss counterpart Karin Keller-Sutter.

"The Action Plan is an important signal that Switzerland and Austria are sending together in the fight against illegal migration and smuggling. This challenge can only be solved through close cooperation and by acting in partnership," said Interior Minister Gerhard Karner at a press conference with Swiss Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter in Zurich, where the new "Austria - Switzerland Action Plan" was presented.

"I think it is essential that we put pressure together to take action against traffickers," the interior minister added. "No European country can tackle the problems of irregular migration alone. It needs joint cross-border cooperation," the Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter added.

The action plan includes measures at the bilateral and European levels. In addition, lines of intervention at the international level are outlined about the relevant migration routes. The measures are taken in compliance with international standards of protection. In this regard, the joint text of the two ministries of the interior mentioned the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.

In both countries, irregular migration has increased significantly in recent months, the two interior ministers stressed at a joint press conference in Zurich this afternoon.

No country can tackle this problem on its own, which is why "close cooperation" between Austria and Switzerland is necessary, Karner and Keller-Sutter said in unison. Together, especially secondary migration, i.e. moving on to other countries, is to be fought in Europe.

Criticism of visa policy of Balkan states

Karner and Keller-Sutter see the reason for the increased number of asylum applications in the visa policy of some Balkan states, especially Serbia. People from India, Pakistan, Tunisia, Burundi and other countries could enter Serbia visa-free by plane and then travel on to the EU with smugglers, the interior ministers criticized.

Targeted use of existing cooperation platforms with the countries of the Western Balkans, especially within the framework of Switzerland's migration partnerships with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo are intended to remedy this situation, according to the action plan.

At the same time, the asylum applications are practically hopeless, Karner said. In the first eight months of this year, there were 56,000 asylum applications in Austria, the interior minister said, speaking of an "almost dramatic situation." Since the beginning of the year, there have already been 32,000 negative asylum decisions, he said according to ORF.

On Austria's initiative, a letter to the EU Commission is therefore in the works, asking it to put pressure on Serbia to align its visa rules with those of the Schengen area. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the letter has so far been signed not only by Switzerland but also by Slovenia, Croatia and Germany.

BMI - Ministry of the Interior