Policing stepped up as concern mounts over migrations
Slovenian police have stepped up patrolling and surveillance along the border with Croatia to crack down on illegal migrations after locals around Brežice have started pleading with authorities to do something in the face of surging numbers of migrants crossing there daily.
Police statistics show more than 36,000 migrants have been apprehended in the first eight months of the year, more than double the number of a year ago, of which more than 34,000 on the land border with Croatia. A total of 241 people smugglers were arrested in the same period.
More than 90% of all irregular migrants cross through Brežice municipality, in particular through Dobova and Rigonce, two villages right on the border, according to police data. The vast majority request asylum but then leave the country before the proceedings have been completed.
Police will increase patrolling and provide security, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said as he visited the region on 9 September to talk to locals and local officials.
The police have already increased their presence in there and expanded the use of technical surveillance, said Police Commissioner Senad Jušić, who accompanied the minister.
The visit came after locals voiced concern about large groups of mostly young men constantly travelling through the communities, sometimes as many as 1,300 per week, Brežice mayor Ivan Molan and Rigonce local community representative Anka Vučajnk said.
Brežice in general and Rigonce in particular were where the vast majority of migrants passed through Slovenia at the outset of the migrant crisis in 2015.
While Slovenia has started removing fencing set up along almost the entire border in the aftermath of the migrant crisis, the locals have asked that the fence around Rigonce remain in place and even be expanded. Poklukar said the fence will remain standing.
Vučajnk acknowledged there had been no incidents so far, but said that "you never know what can happen." She said people were locking themselves into houses and were afraid to work in the fields. They are also afraid to let their children roam too far from home.
The number of migrants started surging after Croatia joined the Schengen zone and police controls on the Slovenian-Croatian border were lifted. Border security is now provided with increased controls inland, along the entire border area.
Poklukar said the Slovenian police were doing a good job, but he urged Croatia to better monitor the situation on its territory. The two countries are already working together with joint police patrols and Slovenia "is willing to intensify cooperation" should Croatia request additional help, he said.
Mayor Molan meanwhile criticised Croatia saying "I have the feeling that Croatia does not police the Schengen border the way it should. "I therefore call on the foreign minister, the police and everyone else to try and agree with Croatia at the most senior level to perform controls more diligently and in line with the law." he said.
Unless that happens, Slovenia will have to reintroduce police checks on the border, just like Austria did, according to Molan.