Austria will continue its policy of deporting failed Afghan asylum seekers, despite the threatened takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, two senior Cabinet members have said.
Other EU countries, including France and Germany, have suspended deportations as the Taliban advance unfolds.
But Austria’s interior and foreign ministers have now indicated they see deportations as a policing and crime issue rather than a humanitarian crisis.
“It is easy to call for a general ban on deportations to Afghanistan, while on the other hand negating the expected flight movements. Those who need protection must receive it as close as possible to their country of origin,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.
“A general ban on deportation is a pull factor for illegal migration and only fuels the inconsiderate and cynical business of smugglers and thus organised crime.
“As minister of the interior, I am primarily responsible for the people living in Austria. Above all, this means protecting social peace and the welfare state over the long term.”
Mr Nehammer also said that asylum seekers in Austria are almost exclusively young men.
Austria was one of six EU countries that insisted last week on their right to forcibly deport rejected Afghan asylum seekers.
Three of the countries – Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands – have since changed course. France has also suspended deportations.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he would not shirk responsibilities to European neighbours over its human trafficking enforcement priorities.
“We will not let the neighbouring states down when it comes to border management and the fight against organised crime.
“The crisis in Afghanistan is not unfolding in a vacuum. Conflict and instability in the region will sooner or later spill over to Europe and thus to Austria. By acting externally, we strengthen our security internally.”
The Osterreich newspaper published an opinion poll showing up to 90 per cent of respondents backed the Austrian government's line.
It linked the support to a high-profile criminal case in June in which four Afghans in Vienna are suspected of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.
France has suspended the expulsions of Afghan migrants whose asylum applications had been rejected.
Germany and the Netherlands said on Wednesday they have stopped forced repatriations.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the Afghan security situation was changing so swiftly it could not guarantee that the deportations did not put people in danger.