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  • Migrants block a railway during a protest demanding the opening of the border between Greece and Macedonia in Idomeni, Greece, Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

    Migrants block a railway during a protest demanding the opening of the border between Greece and Macedonia in Idomeni, Greece, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. | Photo: AFP

Some 14,000 people have already applied for asylum in Austria so far this year, according to the interior ministry.

Austria moved Wednesday to further tighten migrants' access to the country by placing tough new restrictions on asylum eligibility and making it easier to reject asylum seekers at the border.

As of mid-May, the government will only accept cases of refugees facing threats to their safety in a neighboring transit country or whose relatives are already in Austria.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner justified the decision saying European Union law allowed member states to take national measures in emergency situations.

Austria, she argued, was therefore no longer "obliged" to accept all requests because the migrant crisis posed "a threat to public order and national security."

The new rules will also force migrants to request asylum directly at the border in purpose-built registration centers, where they may be held for up to 120 hours while their application is being checked.

Illegal migrants caught inside the country will be taken to the border, Mikl-Leitner warned, while rejected asylum-seekers will be returned to the nation from where they crossed into Austria.

The government also reaffirmed its intention to step up controls at existing checkpoints along its southern frontiers, including at the Brenner Pass, a key European transit route on the Italian border.

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