“Exploding number” of illegal immigrants from India came to Austria last year, says Austrian Foreign Minister 

Jaishankar also had extensive conversation with Austrian leaders, including President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer

January 02, 2023 07:53 pm | Updated January 03, 2023 07:45 am IST - New Delhi

This handout photo taken and released by the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs shows External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg during a meeting in Vienna on January 2, 2023.

This handout photo taken and released by the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs shows External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg during a meeting in Vienna on January 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO/MICHAEL GRUBER BMEIA

Last year witnessed “exploding number of Indians” who arrived at the borders of Austria as illegal immigrants, said the Foreign Minister of Austria Alexander Schallenberg on January 2, 2023.

The Minister made the comment soon after the Indian and the Austrian teams signed a Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement that Mr Schallenberg described as “most important”. He called for dialogue to resolve the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and described India as a voice of “peace” and “reason”.

“Most importantly, today we just initialled a Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement. This is of strategic importance for my country, Austria. This is a sign of a very intensified cooperation in a matter which is of high importance to us. Because, last year we experienced the highest number ever of asylum seekers in Austria — over one hundred thousand. And we had exploding numbers of Indians coming illegally via Serbia to Austria,” said Mr Schallenberg.

The Austrian Minister said the number of applications for asylum from Indian citizens in Austria had reached from 600 in 2021 to “suddenly” 18,000 during last year and added, “The numbers have now decreased. We have pressured our Serbian friends to align their visa liberalisation policy with the EU policy that they have done thankfully.”

“The problem is not immigration; the problem is not migration. To be very clear, we want that. We need that. The problem is illegal immigration and here we are having a very common view that this is something we don’t want. We need immigration controlled by States and not by organised crime and human traffickers,” said Mr Schallenberg appreciating contribution of “tens and thousands of (resident) Indians” towards the Austrian society.

As per the Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Agreement, said the Austrian minister, the Government of India will undertake to take back the illegal immigrants from India while Austria will ensure ease of movement for “students, scholars and skilled workers” from India.

He described India as a “friend and a partner” that adheres to “rules-based international order”. Mr Schallenberg indicated at the crisis in Ukraine and said the war in Ukraine is taking place merely 500 km from the Austrian capital. “We count on you,” he said highlighting India’s role in multilateral platforms.

Commenting on the Comprehensive Migration Mobility Agreement, External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar said, “Let me also be clear that as a country that seeks to utilize the global workplace to the fullest advantage, India is a strong votary of legal migration and mobility. Irregular movement not only enhances the vulnerability of the people involved but is inherently exploitative.”

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