500 refugees sleep on floor in Austria’s biggest refugee camp

Published 23.06.2015 21:27

Some 500 people seeking protection in Austria have been forced to sleep on floor for up to several weeks as they have not been provided beds at the country's biggest refugee camp, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

The 500 exceeded the maximum capacity of 2,300 at the Traiskirchen camp south of Vienna, ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said.

The number of people in the camp had risen because several Austrian provinces do not fulfill their obligations in taking in migrants, he added.

The federal and provincial governments have been struggling to reach an agreement on how to spread the increasing numbers of refugees across the country, mirroring the current debate among EU countries on redistributing arrivals within the bloc.

"We cannot offer a bed to everyone," Grundboeck told dpa, adding that the ministry was not allowed to simply expand Traiskirchen for legal reasons.

The asylum seekers are given blankets but no mattresses. They have to sleep on the floors of waiting rooms and garages in Traiskirchen, he said, confirming media reports.

Austria is one of the richest EU countries. Along with Sweden, it has been taking in the most asylum seekers in the bloc, relative to the size of its population.

More than 6,200 asylum seekers reached Austria in May, two and a half times more than in the same period last year. Most of the arrivals are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The increasingly violent and chaotic situation in the Middle East has led many people to flee the conflict in an attempt to seek security and shelter in more prosperous and peaceful countries in Europe. Over 218,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean in 2014, as indicated by the U.N. More than 110,000 migrants crossed through Libyan territory in 2014 alone, according to the U.N. figures.

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