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Austrian defence minister eyes plan to overhaul EU migrant policy - Bild

BERLIN (Reuters) - Austria’s defence minister has drafted a plan that would overhaul the European Union’s migrant policy by establishing a ceiling for migration and only permitting applications for asylum from outside the EU, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported on Thursday.

Migrants arrive at the Austrian train station of Nickelsdorf to board trains to Germany, September 5, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Photo

Hans Peter Doskozil, a Social Democrat, told the newspaper the changes were urgently needed to create a more orderly system of legal migration for those entitled to asylum in the bloc.

“It’s about ending the failed European asylum policies. We must admit to ourselves and be honest that the EU has limited capacity to absorb more migrants. We must stop illegal immigration,” Bild quoted the minister as saying.

Doskozil will present the plan at a meeting of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) in February and aims “to promote the plan forcefully in Brussels,” his spokesman said.

Bild said Doskozil’s plan calls for an EU migration ceiling based on limits set by member states, which would effectively force countries like Germany that do not currently have such a limit to establish one.

Doskozil’s plan also calls for the creation of asylum centres in countries such as Niger, Jordan and Uzbekistan, potentially using existing facilities of the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Migrants who were denied asylum or those who entered the EU illegally but could not be returned to their home countries would be transferred to “protective zones” that were linked to asylum centres, the newspaper said.

The ministry spokesman, citing the plan, said those migrants judged to be in need of protection would be transferred to an EU country, depending on the capacity of that country for integrating more migrants. Asylum applications would be evaluated by teams of experts from EU member countries, the spokesman said.

Doskozil told the newspaper that his plan would also benefit potential asylum seekers who needed help but had not been able to apply in the past because they could not afford the passage to Europe.

Austria’s centrist government tightened migration laws last year amid strong gains for the anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO), whose candidate Norbert Hofer made it to a December presidential election run-off.

Austria announced a cap on asylum claims of 37,500 last year after taking in 90,000 asylum seekers during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin and Kirsti Knolle in Vienna; Editing by Hugh Lawson