The Slovenia Times

Slovenia to start erecting border barriers in response to refugee crisis


He said there was no sign that the flow of refugees was being stemmed at the EU's external border in Greece.

Action to put up barriers on selected sections of the border will start in the coming days as part of an effort to control the refugee flow across the Slovenian-Croatian border and "prevent a humanitarian disaster" given an anticipated new surge in arrivals.

On Monday the government was acquainted with data indicating that around 30,000 refugees are expected to arrive by Thursday and that the number of those crossing into the EU at the external border each day was not dropping.

The aim is "not to seal off the border", which will remain open, but to "control the refugee flow and prevent a dispersion of refugees across the border", said Cerar.

According to him, the danger facing Slovenia as winter comes is that a new surge in refugees could create a bottleneck, leaving thousands upon thousands stranded in the country, especially if Austria and Germany start to stringently limit the number of arrivals at its borders.

He said that Austria informed Slovenia it would limit the daily arrivals across its border to 6,000 and Germany has also indicated it was looking to impose limits.

As Slovenia is the smallest country on the refugee route leading from the Balkans to northern Europe it has "limited capacities to handle a large number of people, provide them shelter in the winter and food".

Cerar said this meant there was a danger in the event of a large bottleneck of a serious humanitarian crisis arising in the country.

A bottleneck in Slovenia could also undermine security, as authorities struggle to deal with the sheer numbers of arrivals, which is why the government has decided to act to "protect the population and the refugees".

The government decided for the measure in the absence of a systemic solution at EU level, he added, given that there is no sign that efforts to contain the number of arrivals at the external border in Greece are working.

This has been the main demand by Slovenia since the refugee flow was diverted to Slovenia by Hungary's decision to seal off its border with Croatia on 16 October.

Over 170,000 refugees have crossed into Slovenia since then, making for an average of around 7,000 people per day, including a record of around 12,600 on 21 October.

Cerar said the government had opted for the barriers after weighing up all the aspects of such a move, including the symbolism of border barriers.

"Personally it was difficult to decide on the use of technical barriers since it is by no means my wish to...close borders. But as the prime minister I have a responsibility to ensure that the flow of refugees is controlled in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster and provide for security."

While public opinion polls have shown a majority of Slovenians are in favour of a border fence, there is concern in some quarters that such a move runs contrary to European ideals.

Slovenia's human rights ombudsman weighed in on the debate last week by saying that barriers which would not be used in an effort to completely seal off the border would be acceptable as a last resort.

Interior Minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar said today that Slovenia's priority was protecting the Schengen passport-free area in the absence of effective EU measures.

After promises of action on the Greek-Turkish border failed to yield results in the wake of the Balkans-EU summit of 25 October, Slovenia is now hoping that efforts to reduce the porousnesses of the border would bring about a knock-on effect down the Balkans refugee route all the way to the border with Turkey, Györkös Žnidar said.

According to her, Slovenia lacked the capacity to act as a "hotspot" for refugees and had no demographic needs to lead an open-door policy with which it would take in large number of refugees permanently.

Slovenia has already begun presenting its decisions to European partners through diplomatic channels. Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec is visiting Italy today and is expected in Austria tomorrow.

Cerar also said he had contacted Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović to inform him of Slovenia's decision and to coordinate further action in relation to the crisis. He reiterated that the measure is not intended to prevent Croatia from being able to move refugees along.

Moreover, Slovenia will make sure it does not prejudice the course of the border in stretches disputed with Croatia as it erects the barriers, he added.

The precise locations of the barriers remains confidential on security grounds, said Cerar, who also did not go into details of whether the government had coordinated the measure with local communities along the border or with private land owners.


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