By Gabriela Baczynska, Robert-Jan Bartunek and Alastair Macdonald
Austria says it will go ahead with introducing daily caps on migrants despite warnings from Brussels that the move broke European Union rules, which have already been badly stretched by the migration crisis engulfing the bloc.
Vienna announced it would let in no more than 3200 people and cap asylum claims at 80 per day from Friday (local time) as it tries to cut immigration, drawing criticism from the European Union's migration chief.
"Politically I say we'll stick with it ... it is unthinkable for Austria to take on the asylum seekers for the whole of Europe," Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann said on arriving at an EU leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday.
Around 700,000 migrants entered Austria last year and about 90,000 applied for asylum in the country sitting on the migrant route from Turkey via Greece and the Balkans to Germany.
"After 100,000 refugees, we can't tell the Austrian people that it will just continue like this. That's why I tell the EU: we set a good example but to think that you don't have to do anything, then I have to say it is time for the EU to act," Faymann said.
Austria is the latest EU state to resort to its own measures to curb migration and try control the flows as the 28-nation bloc has all but failed to implement a joint response to its worst migration crisis in decades.
"It is true that Austria is under huge pressure," European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told Reuters earlier on Thursday. "It is true they are overwhelmed. But, on the other hand, there are some principles and laws that all countries must respect and apply."
Avramopoulos sent a letter to Austria's Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner on Thursday, urging Vienna to reconsider the move as it was against EU laws.
"The Austrians are obliged to accept asylum applications without putting a cap," Avramopoulos said.