Austria has more than 40,000 Afghan refugees, the second-biggest number in Europe after Germany, which has 148,000, according to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR for 2020.
Austria's conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has opposed taking in any more people fleeing Afghanistan now that the Taliban have seized power.
"I am clearly opposed to us now voluntarily taking in more people and that will not happen during my chancellorship," Kurz said in an interview with TV channel Puls 24.
Excerpts of the interview were released before it was broadcast later on Sunday.
Austria took in more than one percent of its population in asylum seekers during Europe's migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, and Kurz has built his career on taking a hard line on immigration, winning every parliamentary election since 2017.
While the European Union grapples with what to do with Afghans who assisted it over the past 20 years, Kurz said coming to Austria was not an option.
Austria has more than 40,000 Afghan refugees, the second-biggest number in Europe after Germany, which has 148,000, according to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR for 2020. Austria's population is nine times smaller than Germany's.
Austria is also a neutral country and not a member of NATO. It sent only a very small number of troops to Afghanistan. NATO's website lists it as having sent 16 troops for the Resolute Support Mission, an effort to train and advise the Afghan security forces.
"I am not of the opinion that we should take in more people. Quite the opposite," Kurz said of Afghans fleeing their country.
"Austria has made a disproportionately large contribution," he added, referring to the large number of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers already in the country.
Push for refugees to stay in region
He said people fleeing Afghanistan should stay in the region, adding that neighbouring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan had only taken in 14 and 13 Afghan refugees respectively, which matches the UNHCR data.
“It must be our goal to keep the majority of the people in the region,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said this week, echoing what many European leaders say.
European Union officials told a meeting of interior ministers this week that the most important lesson from 2015 was not to leave Afghans to their own devices, and that without urgent humanitarian help they will start moving, according to a confidential German diplomatic memo obtained by The Associated Press.
Hard-line on migration
Austria, among the EU’s migration hard-liners, suggested setting up "deportation centres" in countries neighbouring Afghanistan so that EU countries can deport Afghans who have been denied asylum even if they cannot be sent back to their homeland.
The desperate scenes of people clinging to aircraft taking off from Kabul’s airport have only deepened Europe’s anxiety over a potential refugee crisis.
The US and its NATO allies are scrambling to evacuate thousands of Afghans who fear they’ll be punished by the Taliban for having worked with Western forces. But other Afghans are unlikely to get the same welcome.