The new ruling coalition has set out draconian immigration controls that every populist party dreams of implementing.

The new Austrian government, announced last weekend, will be watched vigilantly by its European neighbors because it includes the far-right Freedom Party -- and because, thanks to its presence, Austria will become the first Western European country to implement an unapologetically right-wing immigration policy.

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Its 180-page coalition agreement could set the tone for similarly draconian policies (and unusual coalitions) in other European Union member states and the wider Western world. 

The link-up between the center-right People's Party, led by 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, and the anti-immigrant Freedom Party owes its existence to Kurz's decision that Austrians were tired of milquetoast centrist policies pursued by "grand coalitions" of the People's Party with the Social Democrats.

 

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Kurz, whose government career began with the integration portfolio, decided to talk to Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache rather than his party's traditional center-left partners and rivals. Strache, with a history ofneo-Nazi ties and strongly anti-EU leanings, agreed to state unequivocally that Austria would not try to secede from the EU or drop the euro and subscribed to traditional center-right policies like keeping down the national debt.

In exchange for going along with Kurz on the economy and on Europe, he received the foreign minister's post and control over the security bloc of the government, including the interior and defense ministries. But perhaps more importantly, the Freedom Party got a mainstream imprimatur on its immigration policy.

"Our migration policy," the governing parties declared as a general principle, "should be such that the population would be able to support it."

That, in their opinion, should involve rewriting migration legislation from scratch to draw a clear line between immigration and asylum. The former is supposed to be merit-based, in line with Austria's labor market needs. Asylum rights are inscribed in international law, but the Freedom Party wants to ensure Austria's policy is designed to prevent abuses.

In the U.S., its proposals would be described as extreme vetting. Asylum seekers should be prepared to give up their mobile phones for analysis to determine their travel routes and, where necessary, their identity. If a positive identification can't be made, as was the case with many new arrivals during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, the new government intends to refuse asylum.

It also plans to confiscate any cash asylum-seekers might be carrying and put it toward the cost of their settlement. Any help they receive, the program goes on, should only be in kind. Individual accommodation should be ruled out, and medical confidentiality should be waived for diseases deemed important for the settlement process. Any asylum seekers convicted of crimes are to be deported. Deportation appeals procedures are generally to be curtailed. Read More

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