VIENNA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Austrian Minister of Defence Hans Peter Doskozil on Thursday rejected a plan announced by his fellow minister to accept asylum seekers from neighboring Italy.
Doskozil was responding to an Italian media report which said that Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti claimed that his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Sobotka, had promised his country would accept "a significant number" of refugees from Italy.
Sobotka later confirmed the report, saying the plan only targets unaccompanied minor refugees who might have their asylum applications approved in Austria.
Sobotka's proposal was reportedly to align with European Union (EU)'s refugee relocation system outlined in 2015 regarding an even distribution of refugees among member states.
The EU plan aims to reduce the burden of Italy and Greece, which are the top points of arrival for the relentless flow of migrants and asylum-seekers heading to Europe.
But Sobotka's refugee plan was denied by Doskozil.
In comments to the Austria Press Agency, Doskozil said as long as "illegal and uncontrolled migration" continues to exist, creating a burden to Austria, there "cannot be an additional legal path for asylum seekers."
Doskozil further pointed out that Austria's population is only one-seventh that of Italy, but it takes in about one-third of the number of asylum seekers that its southern neighbor does.
"That shows that Austria suffers from a heavier burden for accepting refugees than Italy does," the minister added.
Instead, Doskozil suggested establishing asylum processing centers outside of Europe. He also urged opening a new legal channel for asylum seekers.
In response to Doskozil's rejections, the office of the Ministry of the Interior said the refugee acceptance issue had already been agreed upon by EU interior ministers in 2015, before Doskozil became a cabinet minister.