Austria’s interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka has said that it would be “unthinkable” to issue work permits to refugees in the country, according to a newspaper interview published on Thursday.
A proposal by the European Commission offers asylum seekers work permits after six months of the asylum claim to help them integrate.
"I consider it unthinkable to issue working permits for asylum seekers," Wolfgang Sobotka told the paper. "It would be a call to people in crisis-ridden countries to come to Austria. Our job market would not be able to absorb that."
Sobotka said that, across the EU, asylum seekers should not be permitted to work, in order to reduce incentives to make the journey to Europe. He also stressed on the importance of harmonizing standards for the treatment of asylum seekers across the EU. “We want firm and fair standards to replace the existing, fragmented approach," he said.
Austria took in 90,000 asylum seekers during the influx of migrants to Europe last year, but has since capped its intake and imposed border controls. Currently asylum applicants are allowed to work in community jobs.
Anti-immigration sentiment among Austrians has risen as result of the migrant crisis, the biggest to affect Europe since WW2, and helped swell support for the far-right Freedom Party. Austria introduced a cap of 37,500 asylum claims for this year and cooperated with its Balkan neighbors in the closure of the main migrant route.