The Slovenia Times

Illegal migration nearly doubles in 2023

Obrežje border crossing with Croatia. Photo: Rasto Božič/STA
Slovenian police handled 58,193 cases of migrants entering Slovenia illegally from Croatia via the Balkan route last year, an increase of 84% on the year before. The number accounted for 96% of all illegal entries recorded in 2023.

Fresh police statistics show the number of intercepted Afghan and Moroccan migrants increased the most in the year since Croatia joined the Schengen Area.

The number of illegal migrants from Afghanistan tripled to almost 18,000 and the number of Moroccans rose from 300 in 2022 to over 8,800 in 2023.

The number of Pakistani and Russian citizens intercepted for entering the country illegally doubled, to over 5,200 and 3,631, respectively.

Speaking to reporters on 11 January, Police Commissioner Senad Jušić said the police enhanced international cooperation to manage illegal migration.

Citing an increased threat of terrorism as a fallout from the Israel-Hamas war, Slovenia reintroduced police checks on its borders with Croatia and Hungary in October as did Italy on its border with Slovenia. Austria has been extending temporary checks at its border with Slovenia since the 2015 migrant crisis.

New smuggling routes

Jušić said the Slovenian police had adjusted to Croatia's entry into Schengen and that data on the number of people smugglers apprehended testified of their efficacy.

The police apprehended 554 migrant smugglers in 2023. Only nine of them were Slovenian nationals.

Over the past two months, the police detected an increased number of attempts to smuggle migrants from northern Slovenia into Austria over remote mountain passes.

Nine traffickers who tried to smuggle a total of 92 foreigners, mostly Syrians, have been apprehended since the beginning of December.

The Celje Police Department told the Slovenian Press Agency the migrants were being smuggled into Austria from the asylum centre in Ljubljana and its branch in Logatec.

Additional police patrols have been deployed in those areas after locals near the border with Austria noticed an increased number of vehicles with foreign license plates driving past their homes at odd hours.

Most asylum seekers leave

Last year 58,757 migrants expressed the intention to apply for international protection in Slovenia, 87% more than in 2022. Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar noted at the end of December that 95% of those who asked for asylum had left the country of their own accord.

Meanwhile, the number of people returned to Croatia, accounting for the bulk of returns, plummeted from 2,171 to 176 in 2023.

The number of foreigners processed for illegal residence fell from 4,462 to 2,065, with the most significant declines recorded for Albanian, Bosnian, Serbian and Moldavian nationals.


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