Ljubljana – Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has rejected allegations by NGOs that Slovenian police officers are engaged in pushbacks on the Slovenian border, while he has criticised Croatian police for giving migrants instructions to ask for international protection in Slovenia.
“The information I have shows that the Slovenian police has never done that,” he told Delo about the pushback allegations in an interview the paper posted on its website yesterday evening.
“It is true that migrants were kept at the border and that it was agreed with the Croats on the basis of bilateral agreements to return them to Croatia. This worked quite well until a month or two ago.
“However, things changed in that Croats somewhat informally started instructing the migrant population to ask for international protection in Slovenia.”
Hojs said requests for international protection had increased by almost 60% in Slovenia this year whereas the number of intercepted illegal migrants dropped by some 40%.
In the ten-month period between January and October, Slovenia registered more than 8,000 irregular entries, practically all from Croatia, which Delo said meant Slovenia’s southern neighbour did not control its border with Bosnia-Herzegovina well.
Hojs responded by saying that if Croatia entered the Schengen zone, Slovenia would act very similarly to Austria, which has introduced control on its internal EU border. “Given the numbers, I would choose not to drastically withdraw any items from the border. I am talking about the green border,” he said.
He reiterated Slovenia’s support for the Schengen zone expansion to Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, “but given us being neighbours, we are especially interested in Croatia’s entry”.
According to Hojs, Slovenia received several signals from Croatia about the political support for its Schengen entry over a month and a half ago.
This means that Slovenia as the EU presiding country could put relevant resolutions of the Council of the EU on the agenda, while an opinion of the European Parliament would have to be obtained before the Council’s final decision, said Hojs, adding the matter could still be removed from the agenda.
Delo said some EU states could still have some reservations, unofficially the Netherlands, as its caretaker government could not decide on such a matter.