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Press Release

10.11.15

Construction of physical barriers on the Schengen border a necessary temporary measure

At a press conference on the refugee crisis earlier today, the Slovenian Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, announced the government’s decision to start erecting temporary physical barriers on the Schengen border with Croatia. The PM underlined that “The border remains open, but under strict control. The sole purpose of these temporary physical barriers will be to prevent the dispersal of refugees and to steer them towards controlled entry points,” Cerar explained. He added that this was a necessary temporary measure needed to ensure the proper functioning of the country and citizens’ safety, as well as to protect the refugees and prevent a humanitarian disaster. The Prime Minister emphasised that Slovenia remains a responsible EU member state and a guardian of the Schengen border.

    

Cerar reiterated that the government had taken note of the latest information regarding the increased influx of refugees along the Balkan route at its session yesterday. Some 30,000 people are making their way towards Slovenia at the moment, with the number of new people arriving in Greece and continuing towards Central and Western Europe remaining high. This means that the countries along the Balkan migration route are not honouring the commitments made at the mini summit in Brussels to protect the EU’s external borders. 

   

Slovenia may already be faced with an enormous third wave of refugees in the next few days. As noted by Cerar, Austria and Germany have reduced their intake of refugees. Austria has announced that only up to 6000 people will be accepted per day, and Germany will be imposing a similar restriction. This may result in thousands of people being stranded in Slovenia. As winter draws closer and temperatures fall, this could lead to a humanitarian disaster, as Slovenia will not be able to provide adequate accommodation, food, water, clothing or care. The Prime Minister underlined that Slovenia, as a country based on solidarity, is doing its best to increase its accommodation capacities, with a focus on heated facilities suitable for the approaching winter conditions. It is essential to ensure the unobstructed passage of refugees, as Slovenia is the smallest country along the Balkan migration route with very limited capacity to accommodate and assist refugees. As noted by the PM, any congestion resulting from an imbalance between the inflow and outflow of refugees could threaten the security of Slovenia as well as the wider European region. 

   

As a human being, I find the decision to erect physical barriers difficult to make, as I certainly do not want Europe to close its borders again. However, as Prime Minister, I have to take responsibility to ensure the controlled flow of refugees in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster and ensure safety,” PM Cerar said.

   

The Prime Minister also gave assurances that Slovenia is keeping other countries, especially EU member states, advised of all of its decisions. Earlier today, PM Cerar presented Slovenia’s intentions to the Croatian Prime Minister, Zoran Milanović, and the Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann. The government is also communicating its decisions through diplomatic channels. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karl Erjavec, will explain the situation to his Italian and Austrian colleagues, and Prime Minister Cerar will notify the the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council of the planned temporary measure.

   

The interior minister, Vesna Györkös Žnidar, expects that the EU, as well as other member states, will do its utmost to protect the Schengen area. The minister briefed her counterpart at yesterday’s meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. She stressed that Slovenia considers it vital that the EU’s external borders be effectively managed and countries cooperate more closely in order to control the influx of migrants, also in the light of commitments made at the mini summit of countries along the Balkan route. Slovenia is still not satisfied with the control of migrants moving along the refugee route, said the minister.

   

Since mid-October, over 170,000 have entered Slovenia, which is equivalent to over 8 per cent of the country’s population. While this means there are mass arrivals of people on its border, Slovenia is doing its best to protect the Schengen border, which also helps prevent a reduction in security in other EU member states, said Györkös Žnidar. In order to control the influx of migrants, we should first ensure that the Schengen border is protected, while offering assistance on EU’s external borders. The problems should be resolved constructively along the entire route from Greece onwards. The minister urged systemic solutions at European level: “The problem is greater than Europe, and greater than Slovenia.” Some other member states are also aware of this and have offered Slovenia police reinforcements to protect the Schengen border, and these will be gratefully received by Slovenia.


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