Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen has rejected suggestions to close the Mediterranean route to migrants trying to reach Europe. Italian state television quoted Van der Bellen as saying that his country will honour its commitment to the distribution of immigrants among European countries. He made the remarks after talks with his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, during a visit to Rome.
“The Mediterranean route has become the most important route for the flow of migrants after the closure of the Western Balkans route”, but “we do not agree to closing the Mediterranean route and this is not an option because it means human death,” Van der Belen said.
The president said that Italy should not be left alone to deal with the refugee crisis, although Europe will have to face the problem for many years to come.
Additionally, the president said there is no reason to consider closing the border crossing between Austria and Italy.
“Because I am European and Austrian, I consider this crossing to be a sensitive border that symbolises the unity of Europe”, he said.
The president praised the “positive cooperation between Vienna and Rome on the border and the cooperation between the police services of both countries”.
“Relative to its population, Austria has made more contributions than many other countries in Europe except Italy, Greece and Sweden”, Van der Bellen said.