Despite Portugal’s willingness to take in more refugees than its fixed EU quota, Austria has said “no thank you” for what it calls “logistical reasons”.
As the nation’s media explained earlier this week, prime minister António Costa has written to a number of countries struggling to accommodate refugee numbers, saying: “We have 500 spaces in universities until April, 1,000 from July and from October 1,500. We have around 1,000 spaces in polytechnics, around 850 in professional schools and in the agricultural sector we have identified places for 2,500”.
His letters went out to Germany, Greece, Austria, Sweden and Italy, but so far only Austria appears to have replied.
It’s “no” came from Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann who then went on to hold a press conference to talk about his country’s exceptional response to the thousands of refugees that flowed into the country last year.
To re-direct some of them to Portugal was “not possible”, he said as they had all travelled 2000km from Greece to reach Austria.
To travel south “again 2000km to Portugal” was clearly what he considered the problem, stressing it would be better for Portugal to receive refugees directly from Greece.
Whether this alternative would involve an equal amount of ‘screening’ of applicants has not been covered in any of the news reports – nor is it clear now what will happen.
Diário de Notícias writes that “the Austrian government hopes to give more information on conversations about refugees between Vienna and Lisbon within the next few days”.
Meantime, the distribution of the 160,000 refugees due to take place throughout Europe in the next two years is going painfully slowly.
DN says Portugal is due to receive the next intake of 37 in the coming week, adding to the first 30, while in total only 598 people have been placed.
Elsewhere, Hungary is poised to hold a referendum over the quotas established by Brussels, which it “strongly contests”, says the paper.