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General Othmar Commenda; economic migrants

Austrian military chief says political will to block migrants lacking

Austria’s most senior soldier, Othmar Commenda has suggested that the Mediterranean human trafficking route used by migrants could be almost completely closed off by the military.

Published: June 29, 2017, 9:46 pm

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    According to Commenda, the return of refugees to their countries of origin is not a military problem, but a political problem.

    In the debate about a possible closure of the Mediterranean route for migrants, general Commenda said: “Within the EU, most members now have the necessary strategic means to control the migration routes by sea – and to limit illegal migration.”

    A military spokesman confirmed a report from the Wednesday edition of the Austrian daily, the Kronen-Zeitung.

    Commenda told the Krone that almost all the refugee boats that are heading for Europe, could be intercepted militarily. As in all security areas and also in the Balkans, however, a small gap would remain open, according to the General.

    “From a military point of view, almost all of these refugee boats heading for Europe can be intercepted,” he concluded.

    Commenda said the EU could easily follow the Australian example and stop boats from crossing to the shores of Greece and Italy, and could return migrants to safe zones in Africa.

    He pointed out that such protected zones were already “proven” and “being applied in Syria”.

    The Australian policy of stopping boats is a proven method of discouraging migrants from making the journey and instead seek refuge in designated safe zones.

    Commenda told German media that the EU has the means to implement such a policy to “return the largely male economic refugees”.

    The vast majority of migrants currently making sea journeys to Europe are from African nations, including Guinea, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Gambia, as well as Bangladesh, where there are no conflicts.

    After surge in refugee arrivals, Italy is reportedly seeking EU approval of drastic changes to asylum procedures. The Italian government wants to block smuggler’s migrants boats from landing at its ports after nearly 11 000 refugees arrived on its shores in five days.

    The surge in the number of Africans flooding into Italy prompted the interior minister, Marco Minniti, to turn back on a flight to Washington to address the crisis, The Guardian reported.

    In just four days between 24 and 27 June, 8 863 migrants arrived in Italy, including more than 5 000 on Monday alone, according to the International Office for Migration.

    Renato Brunetta of the Forza Italia party, wants the EU to allow the boats to be diverted to other Mediterranean ports.

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