Austria plans ad campaign to deter Afghans from seeking asylum

Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner talks to journalists after a meeting in the chancellery in Vienna, Austria, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader (Reuters)

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria wants to deter Afghans from seeking asylum there by funding a campaign of advertisements on Kabul buses, on Facebook and on television telling them not to expect a warm welcome. Austria, the last stop before Germany, the top destination for migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, has come under fire from the European Commission and human rights groups for capping its intake of refugees. "The federal government has an upper limit of 37,500 (asylum requests this year). In order to get to this number it is necessary to reduce the influx of refugees," Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said. "It's only a question of fairness to tell people in their home countries about the strict asylum laws in Austria." In large red capital letters, Austria tells Afghans in its adverts: "No asylum in Austria" for economic reasons, adding that Vienna sets time limits for asylum, is increasing its deportations and has strict conditions for family reunification. Drawing on its experience in curbing migrant numbers from Kosovo last year with a local media campaign, Austria will pay for huge posters to be put up in Afghanistan's five biggest cities as well as for adverts on more than 1,000 Afghan websites and in daily newspapers, the Interior Ministry said. The Alpine republic of 8.5 million people received 90,000 asylum requests last year, around a quarter of them submitted by Afghans, a trend which is continuing this year. Austria is not the first country to plan such a campaign to reduce immigration. Australia launched a similar initiative warning "You will not make Australia home", and an anti-immigration party in Sweden said last year it would launch an campaign in foreign media to discourage asylum-seekers. (Reporting By Francois Murphy, writing by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Gareth Jones)