Tuesday 21 February 2017

Slovenia considers border fence as army is deployed to guard against migrants

Marja Novak and Maja Zuvela

Published 20/10/2015 | 06:50

Migrants make their way on foot on the outskirts of Brezice, Slovenia Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)
Migrants make their way on foot on the outskirts of Brezice, Slovenia Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)

Slovenia has begun deploying its army to prevent thousands of migrants from streaming into tiny country.

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About 19,500 migrants have entered Slovenia since Friday, Interior Ministry Bostjan Sefic said, who that his government was considering a "physical barrier" along its borders if the number of arrivals continued to grow.

Thousands of refugees were left trapped in Slovenia and Croatia after neighbour Hungary sealed its southern border with an imposing steel fence.

Asked if Slovenia would consider its own fence, Mr Sefic said he could not exclude the possibility of "safeguarding border crossings with physical obstacles".

The government has pleaded for help from the European Union , saying that Slovenia with its population of just two million people, was too small to cope with the current migrant flow.

The Interior Ministry went on to confirmed reports that some 140 soldiers had been sent to its borders to work with police units attempting to stop migrants from crossing into the country.

Over half a million refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Greece this year and the rate of arrivals is rising with over 8,000 coming on Monday alone, in a rush to beat the onset of freezing winter, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Migrants are helped up a steep muddy bank by police as they make their way on foot on the outskirts of Slovenia Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)
Migrants are helped up a steep muddy bank by police as they make their way on foot on the outskirts of Slovenia Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)

A vast majority of them will head to Macedonia and then cross to Serbia looking to reach Western Europe via Croatia and Slovenia, avoiding the previous route through Hungary.

Attempts by Slovenia to ration the flow of migrants since Hungary sealed its border with Croatia on Friday have triggered a knock-on effect through the Balkans, with thousands held up at border crossings.

A child plays with a mobile device as migrants rest near Brezice in Slovenia Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)
A child plays with a mobile device as migrants rest near Brezice in Slovenia Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)

At least 12,100 migrants were currently in Serbia, the prime minister said on Tuesday, and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported at least 2,500 migrants were stranded in no man's land between Croatia and Serbia overnight in cold temperatures.

Among the at least 1,500 migrants who crossed a bridge across the Sutla river at the Croatian village of Kljuc Brdovecki and headed for the border with Slovenia, was 35-year-old Taysiir Halaby from the Syrian city of Aleppo.

"I want to go to Germany. We will try our luck no matter what," he said as helicopters flew over Slovenian side of the border.

At the Berkasovo border crossing between Serbia and Croatia, Jamal, a 50-year-old Syrian from the city of Tartus, spent the night at the border crossing with his daughter and wife.

Slovenia's interior ministry raised the possibility on Tuesday of setting up physical barriers along its southeastern border if the numbers of migrants increased Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)
Slovenia's interior ministry raised the possibility on Tuesday of setting up physical barriers along its southeastern border if the numbers of migrants increased Credit: Srdjan Zivulovic (REUTERS)

"It was very cold, very, very cold, we are shivering, we received some food, but (there were) no tents for everybody, so we slept under a van, they gave us blankets," Jamal said.

Croatian authorities said more than 2,000 people were sheltered in the Opatovac camp near the border. From there buses were taking them to the nearest train station in Tovarnik or straight to the Slovenian border.

Reuters

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