Slovenia said on Wednesday that it is tightening its border controls with Croatia due to an increase in illegal migration, ahead of a meeting of EU interior ministers to discuss ways to deter migrants from arriving in the European bloc.
On Wednesday morning, Slovenian police set up checkpoints immediately behind the former border crossings between Croatia and Slovenia, where they can stop vehicles if necessary, Slovenian media outlet 24ur.com reported.
But Slovenian Interior Minister Bostjan Poklukar denied that Slovenia has re-instituted border checks and said that this is “not on the table at the moment”.
But he said that the police are taking what he called “compensatory measures” where the number of illegal crossings by migrants has increased, in the Novo Mesto and Koper areas.
Poklukar and his Croatian counterpart Davor Bozinovic attended a meeting in Brussels on Thursday of interior ministers of EU member states, where the issue of migration is one of the main topics.
“We agreed that in the future we will jointly coordinate and act towards the EC [European Commission] and third [non-EU] countries so that joint efforts improve the situation in third countries, on the [migrant] route [to Western Europe] as well as in the countries of origin of the migrants,” said Bozinovic.
Since Croatia entered the Schengen zone, an EU duty-free borderless area, on January 1, 2023, the number of migrants illegally arriving in Slovenia via the Western Balkans route, mainly through Bosnia and Herzegovina, has increased considerably.
From the beginning of this year to the end of August, the Slovenian police recorded 36,137 illegal border crossings between Slovenia and Croatia. A year earlier, 13,601 unauthorised entries were recorded in the same period.
Across Europe, the number of illegal border crossings has been increasing, and in this context, despite Schengen, Austria has been extending border controls with Slovenia and Hungary for some time.
While the government of Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob is standing by its commitment to remove the fence along the two countries’ borders, municipal authorities near the borders have been warning that the Schengen system in Croatia is not working.
There been calls from locals to increase police surveillance and to stop the removal of the fence on the border.
Zoran Niceno, head of the Border Directorate at the Croatian Interior Ministry said that the rise in migrant numbers showed that “smugglers and migrants know the EU system very well”.
“This year, until yesterday, we had 54,593 illegal border crossings, which is 140 per cent more than last year. These numbers are because the route is growing,” Niceno told Croatian Radio.
As for the border crossing with Slovenia, Niceno pointed out that police checks still have to be carried out despite Croatia’s entry into Schengen.
“We undertook 445 joint mixed patrols with our colleagues from Slovenia and covered the points where most people cross the border illegally,” he said.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic denied that Slovenia’s new measures threaten the Schengen system.
“This is not a threat to Schengen… This is control of their internal territory. Croatia is also doing that,” said Plenkovic.
Meanwhile the German government announced on Wednesday that it has extended controls at its borders with Poland and Czechia, also to curb migrant arrivals.
Source : Balkan Insight