February 6, 2016 / 10:55 AM / 2 years ago

Austria's finance minister asks EU to cover costs of additional migrants

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s Finance Minister Hans-Joerg Schelling has asked the European Commission to provide 600 million euros ($670 million) to cover the costs of taking in additional refugees, a ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

A migrant carries a child as they walk through a frozen field after crossing the border from Macedonia, near the village of Miratovac, Serbia, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Austria budgeted for 35,000 asylum seekers annually at a cost of 11,000 euros per person but took in some 90,000 people in 2015, the spokesman quoted the minister as saying in a letter to the head of the EU executive, Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Concerning the migration crisis it is high time the Commission returned to its normal function as an independent institution representing the general Community interest and start acting as such,” Schelling said in the letter, part of which was published by the daily Kurier.

Austria and neighboring Germany threw open their borders last year to hundreds of thousands of people pouring into Europe, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere.

Despite an initial outpouring of sympathy for the migrants, public concern about the influx has fueled a rise in support for the far right in Austria. Last week Vienna said it would step up deportations of migrants to countries it deems safe.

($1 = 0.8961 euros)

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Gareth Jones

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