Slovenia deploys army to Schengen zone border to tackle refugee influx


In a bid to help police manage the flow of migrants and refugees, Slovenia’s parliament has deployed the army to its border with Croatia. The frontier is the main crossing into Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone.

Slovenian parliamentary speaker Milan Brglez said late Monday that the legislation, which enables the army to control the migrant flow for three months, was passed in the 90-seat parliament by 69 votes to five. Under the new law, military personnel are also permitted to temporarily detain groups of migrants and hand them over to police.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar told journalists that the bill was “a natural move under the circumstances.”

“It doesn’t [authorize the army to take] military action, but it is to provide assistance to the police in border-guarding tasks,” Cerar said, adding that the army is also authorized to use force in case of an emergency to “ensure citizens’ safety.”

Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar told lawmakers the army’s support was urgently needed to ease pressure on police manning the border and to enable them to “perform their tasks inside the country, where we expect significant problems when migrants are denied entrance [into Austria].”

Key transit country

After Hungary closed its borders to migrants and refugees in October, Slovenia, which has a 670-kilometer (410-mile) Schengen external border with Croatia, became a key transit country for migrants travelling from Greece toward Austria and Germany.

In an attempt to avoid becoming a bottleneck, Slovenia tightened controls on the migrant flow earlier in February, after neighboring Austria limited the number of migrants transiting through the country to 3,200 a day.

During the last four months, more than 470,000 migrants have entered Slovenia and, after undergoing identification, have crossed the border into Austria.

Many of the nearly 1.1 million migrants who reached Europe’s shores last year – almost half of them from Syria – passed through Austria on their way to Germany and Sweden, the two countries that have taken in the most people.

ksb/cmk (AFP, Reuters)



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