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PM Cerar: We need to take action before the spring surge in migrants

“The Western Balkan migration route, well-known to us since autumn 2015, is being increasingly sealed shut to illegal migration,” pointed out Prime Minister Miro Cerar at today’s press conference in summarising the recent events on the EU level. He underlined the fact that this week the European Union confirmed the continuation of controls on certain internal borders of the Schengen area, including on the border between Slovenia and Austria. Another important step towards closing the Western Balkan migration route was taken at yesterday’s meeting of all countries lying along what is termed the Western Balkan route in Vienna, where it was agreed that a joint action plan of all these countries would be drawn up with the aim of preventing illegal migration.

Here the Prime Minister also touched on the recent summit in Malta: “I also drew attention to the developments on the existing Western Balkan route in the context of the European Council debate on how the EU could better engage with Africa and the Middle East, how it could assist Libya and Egypt and some other countries, as well as in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement.”

While the Western Balkan route is becoming increasingly sealed shut to illegal migrants, new routes for organised crime and illegal migration are opening up. “I therefore mentioned the possibility that one of these emerging new alternative routes is the Adriatic route, or the land route along the Adriatic coast (from Albania through Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia to Slovenia). I concluded that now is the right time to draw attention to the possibility of that route emerging,” said the PM, adding that it would be too late to take note of this once such a route had become established. “Even before the first wave of migrants, a year before that we had pointed out the possibility of the Western Balkan route becoming established, and no one took our warnings seriously.”

Here the Prime Minister also offered the latest data on the increase in illegal migration in the area along the Adriatic coast. In the past week Frontex identified ten times more illegal migrants crossing the Greece-Albania border than those crossing the Greece-Macedonia border. And four times as many are crossing the Albania-Montenegro border than the Serbia-Croatia border. The Croatian security services themselves are recording increased pressure in the area of Croatian Istria: in just one operation before the new year they prevented the entry of a hundred people. In Slovenia, during 2016 the Koper police dealt with an almost 2.5 times increase in illegal crossings relative to 2015.

“These data point to a trend, so we need to take action now in cooperation with all the other countries. This is not fear-mongering, this is my and our responsibility to notify in due time those that need to take action, and to ensure security through preventive measures and coordination among countries.” When spring comes, the pressures of illegal migration will be even greater, and at that point Austria could completely close its border. For this reason I am warning right now that such a situation is a threat to Slovenia.

Furthermore: Slovenia is constantly drawing attention to developments, since it is one of the key countries in which all these routes cross, said PM Cerar. “We cannot allow a repeat of such mass migrations as we experienced earlier. Our country will help – and as part of the relocation programme it is already actively involved – for as long as it has available capacity, but then it will have to resort to other measures.”

Moving on, in response to a question from the press, the PM offered a response about the current events surrounding the Cimos company. He stated that the Government is intensively involved in rescuing the company, and together with SDH (Slovenian Sovereign Holding) and the DUTB (Bank Assets Management Company) it will work to obtain all possible information, since it is in the interest of both countries to keep as many jobs as possible on both sides.