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Austrian leader lauds UK’s efforts on migration, cites its plan for deportations to Rwanda

Austria’s leader praised Britain Tuesday as a “pioneer” in outsourcing asylum proceedings to places outside Europe, citing a U.K. bill to send migrants to Rwanda as he hosted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Vienna.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s conservative party has long taken a hard line on migration and faces a strong challenge from the far-right Freedom Party in an election expected this fall.

Nehammer said Austria and the United Kingdom, which left the European Union in 2020, are “strategic partners when it comes to being able to conduct asylum proceedings in safe third countries.”

“The United Kingdom is a pioneer for this path, which will also be important for the European Union,” he said at a joint news conference with Sunak. “With the Rwanda model, it is a pioneer for us being able to put asylum proceedings in safe third countries on the European Union’s agenda too.”

Austria is one of 15 countries in the 27-nation EU that called last week for more agreements with countries where migrants depart from or travel through to get to Europe. That call came after EU nations endorsed sweeping reforms to the bloc’s failed asylum system.

In late April, the British Parliament passed legislation to send some migrants to Rwanda, clearing the way for flights this summer under Sunak’s controversial plan aimed at deterring risky English Channel crossings by people desperate to reach the U.K.

Human rights activists and migrants’ groups have vowed to continue fighting the policy, which they say is unethical and inhumane.

Sunak said that “we have to pursue new ideas, solutions, and deterrents — removals to safe third countries — like the U.K.’s pioneering Rwanda scheme.”

“It’s increasingly clear that many other countries now agree that that is the approach that is required: bold, novel, looking at safe country partnerships,” Sunak said.

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