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Austria urges setting up ‘hot spots’ outside EU for processing refugees

Austria has proposed that the European Union should entirely move its refugee application processing system outside the bloc.

Austrian weekly Profil said on Saturday that the government in Vienna had tabled a proposal to an EU meeting, calling for a new system that rules out any asylum application made on European soil.

The magazine said the proposal, in the form of a paper by Austria’s Interior Ministry, had been presented to the meeting at a civil servant level without elaborating when the meeting actually took place.

Profil said the new system sought to restrict the process of selecting refugees for transferring to EU countries exclusively to “hot spots” outside the EU. It quoted the ministry paper as saying that only in the “hot spots” the people in need of protection are allowed to be selected and transferred to EU countries.

The proposal means that the EU would only allow exceptional cases of refugee applications in the future. It also sets a tough condition for EU members to shut down the Mediterranean route taken by tens of thousands of refugees to Europe.

The proposal comes amid a dispute between EU states on how to handle a new refugee crisis affecting Europe. Italy, a front-line nation in dealing with refugees, has refused to take in refugee boats since a new populist government took office last month.

Authorities from Italy, Austria and Germany will hold talks next week to discuss how they can close the route taken by refugees from North Africa to Italy. Rome insists the situation in the Mediterranean is urgent and dangerous, saying the EU should finally put an end to the flow or share responsibility with Italy in rescue operations.

In a shaky agreement last month, EU countries vowed to open camps around the Mediterranean, including in Africa, to process asylum requests. However, eastern European countries, notably Poland and Hungary, still resist helping others by taking a share from the flow.