VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria will follow the United States and Hungary in backing out of a United Nations migration pact over concerns it will blur the line between legal and illegal migration, the right-wing government said on Wednesday.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the United States, which backed out last year.
Hungary’s right-wing government has since said it will not sign the final document at a ceremony in Morocco in December. Poland, which has also clashed with Brussels by resisting national quotas for asylum seekers, has said it is considering the same step.
“Austria will not join the U.N. migration pact,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a conservative and immigration hard-liner who governs in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, said in a statement.
“We view some points of the migration pact very critically, such as the mixing up of seeking protection with labour migration,” said Kurz, who argues that migrants rescued in the Mediterranean should not be brought straight to Europe.
Austria took in roughly 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers in 2015 during a migration crisis in which more than a million people travelled to Europe, many of them fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
Concerns linked to those arrivals dominated last year’s parliamentary election and helped propel Kurz’s conservatives to power. He has said he will prevent any repeat of that influx and implemented policies that include restricting benefits for new immigrants.
The non-binding U.N. pact is aimed at making migration safe and orderly. It addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them into new countries and how to return them to their home countries.
Austria will not send an envoy to the signing ceremony in Morocco and will abstain at a U.N. General Assembly vote on the pact next year, a draft cabinet decision due to be approved later on Wednesday and published by Kurz’s office showed.
Kurz and far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache expressed concerns about the pact this month, saying it could restrict sovereignty.
“The government’s view is in particular that no human right to migration arises or can arise from this pact,” the draft said. “There can be no dilution of legal and illegal migration, as is to be feared from this pact. Austria’s sovereignty must be preserved at all times.”
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa in Berlin; Editing by Janet Lawrence