Fact Check: Romania Did NOT Agree To Take In A Quota Of Immigrants From Austria In Exchange For Access To 'Air Schengen'

Fact Check

  • de: Jurnaliștii Lead Stories
Fact Check: Romania Did NOT Agree To Take In A Quota Of Immigrants From Austria In Exchange For Access To 'Air Schengen' No Set Quota

Did Romania agree to take in a quota of immigrants from Austria in exchange for border-free air travel in the Schengen zone? No, that's not true: The condition set by Austria in exchange for a partial lift of the veto on Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen area says nothing new that wasn't already stipulated by the Dublin Regulation. The regulation says that the two countries will have to accept the immigrants who are declined asylum in Austria and first entered Europe via Romania or Bulgaria, so that their asylum requests can be examined directly in the states through which they first entered.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here), posted on TikTok on December 17, 2023. As translated from Romanian to English by Lead Stories staff, the title was:

Ciolacu and his arrangements

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

TikTok screenshot

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Dec 19 10:41:13 2023 UTC)

In the video, the speaker refers to Romania's Prime Minister, Marcel Ciolacu, and says (as translated):

Marcel Ciolacu agreed with the Austrian officials to receive the immigrants from Syria and Afghanistan in exchange for Romania's access to Air Schengen. What Prime Minister Ciolacu is not saying is what kind of deal he has with Austria and what immigrant quotas he'd take responsibility for on behalf of Romania -- where we will host them and with whose money?

Other clips, such as this one, posted on TikTok on December 15, 2023, (archived here) claim that Romania will receive "Austria's immigrants" and that the process to return illegal immigrants from Austria to Romania is already underway. This is not true.

Austria, leading the opposition to Bulgaria and Romania joining the Schengen area due to illegal immigration concerns, has offered to soften its stance by allowing citizens from the two countries permission to fly within Europe without going through passport control -- the so-called Air Schengen -- if a series of conditions are met by the two countries.

Austria's interior minister Gerhard Karner told public broadcaster ORF on December 11, 2023, (archived here) as quoted by Austrian and international media, that Vienna had communicated three clear conditions to the EU Commission that needed to be met so that Romanian and Bulgarian citizens would have access to Air Schengen, which does not include ground travel. The Commission confirmed they had received Vienna's request.

The first two conditions called for increased surveillance and security at Bulgaria and Romania's external borders, according to ORF, while the third asked that the two countries accept the immigrants who had been declined asylum in Austria and had first entered the bloc via Romania or Bulgaria, respectively.

That condition enforces existing rules, stipulated in the Dublin Regulation, which requires asylum seekers to submit their claims in the first EU country they reach. Media reports mention no discussion about the two countries having to receive a quota of immigrants, according to a search conducted on Google News's index of thousands of credible news sites on December 22, 2023, using these terms: "austria romania air schengen immigrant quota" (archived here). Austria's position only refers to the asylum seekers who entered the EU via Romania.

According to Romanian law, an asylum seeker has to file for asylum in Romanian territory, and if the request is accepted the person obtains refugee status. In 2022, only under 3% of migrants entering the Schengen area passed through Romania, and these entries into Romanian territory were made from Serbia or Bulgaria, according to the 2022-2023 Risk Analysis Report of the European Border Police Agency, Frontex. No illegal migrant entered Schengen from the Black Sea.

Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu denied the claim shared in the TikTok, and called the idea of immigrant quotas a manipulation, in an interview with Romanian TV channel Digi24 on December 11, 2023. "When they [immigrants] ask for asylum or are detected by the Austrian authorities, their route is known, because we share information," he said (archived here). "The discussion with the Minister of the Interior was about those 3% who transited Romania. There is no question of quotas, Afghanistan, or Syrians. No one spoke of such things."

Romania's Interior Minister Cătălin Predoiu confirmed this upon return from the Salzburg forum held in Slovenia on December 11-12, 2023, where he met with his Austrian counterpart Gerhard Karner. "According to the Dublin rules in force, once they [immigrants] in Austria and found to be illegal immigrants, according to the existing rules, they are sent to the country they came from, i.e. Romania," Predoiu said during a press briefing published on the Ministry of Internal Affairs website (archived here). "It is not about any other requirement. So there is nothing new that Romania is obliged to comply with, compared to what has already been established by the Schengen criteria," he added.

  Lead Stories Staff

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