Austria wants a refugee quota for every country in the European Union to help absorb hundreds of migrants arriving every day by boat in southern Europe, Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a newspaper interview .
Faymann described as "totally absurd" the current system in which refugees are supposed to be taken in by the country where they first arrive. This would mean Malta, Italy and Greece would have to accommodate all the Mediterranean refugees, which they are unable to, he said.
"I want quick EU-wide rules that in future all 28 countries declare themselves willing to take in refugees on a scale linked to population. There should be a refugee quota for each country," he told Oesterreich in an interview printed on Sunday.
"This naturally applies only to refugees fleeing war and seeking political asylum. We do not want and cannot take in economic refugees," he added.
His office confirmed the quotes were accurate.
Shocked into action by a shipwreck in the Mediterranean last month that killed up to 900 people, the EU has pledged to triple the budget of a sea rescue mission which replaced a more comprehensive Italian operation.
Faymann, a Social Democrat who governs in a coalition with conservatives, said even the increased rescue budget would probably have to be doubled to keep more refugees from drowning in rickety craft trying to make their way to Europe.
Faymann reiterated Austria's call for new intake centres under the auspices of the UN refugee agency that could distribute people to EU countries, but acknowledged northern African countries had little appetite to host such centres.
Asylum applications in Austria — mostly by people from Syria, Kosovo and Afghanistan — rose by a factor of 2.5 in the first quarter to over 10,200, government data show.