Worried Slovenia might built fence to cope with migrant crisis

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2015 6:17 AM

By Marja Novak and Maja Zuvela

LJUBLJANA/RIGONCE, Slovenia (Reuters) - Slovenia said it will consider all options, including fencing off its border with Croatia, if European leaders fail to agree a common approach to the migrant crisis as thousands stream into the ex-Yugoslav republic.

Migrants began crossing into Slovenia last Saturday after Hungary closed its border with Croatia. The Slovenian Interior Ministry said that a total of 47,000 had entered the country since Saturday, including some 10,000 in the past 24 hours.

A Reuters cameraman said about 3,000 people broke the fence at the border crossing at Sentilj and walked in to Austria on Friday morning.

Slovenian officials said the country is too small and does not have enough resources to handle such large numbers of people. Prime Minister Miro Cerar accused Croatia of transporting too many people too quickly to Slovenia.

When asked if there was the possibility of building a fence on the border, Cerar told Slovenian state TV: "We are considering also those options."

"At first we are seeking a European solution. If we lose hope on the European level, if we do not get enough on Sunday … then all options are possible as that would mean that we are on our own," Cerar said.

Several European leaders are due to meet in Brussels on Sunday under the auspices of the European Commission to discuss the latest developments in the migrant crisis, Europe's biggest since World War.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have reached Europe this year, with hundreds losing their lives in risky voyages across the Mediterranean.

Most are trying to reach Germany and other rich countries.

Croatia began directing migrants into Slovenia, which is part of the European Union's open border Schengen Area, after Hungary closed its borders.

But bottlenecks have built up along new routes and border crossing points in the Balkans, and aid workers fear the humanitarian crisis will deepen as winter weather sets in.

According to Slovenia's interior ministry, the cost of fencing off the 670-km long border with Croatia would be about 80 million euros.

Slovenia has asked for the EU for assistance and officials said Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland offered to send police reinforcements.

On Friday morning thousands of refugees and migrants were sitting in a field outside a small town of Rigonce near the border with Croatia as temperatures neared freezing level.

From there they will be escorted by the police to a camp to be registered before they continue on their journey to Austria.

"We have been traveling for 10 days and it was very difficult," Abdullah, 23-year-old medicine student from the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has suffered heavy destruction and many deaths during that country's four-year-old civil war.

"I am here with my wife who has a heart problem and was treated by physicians last night. We plan to reach Germany to continue our studies and try to earn some money to help our parents join us," he said.

At the Berkasovo-Bapska border crossing between Serbia and Croatia, as many as 3,000 refugees were awaiting to cross the boundary on Friday morning.

Croatian police kept the gate open, allowing entry to groups of about 100 people at the time, a Reuters witness reported.

(Writing by Ivana Sekularac, Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic, Editing by Angus MacSwan)