Austria plans fence to reign in refugee influx
Austria says it is planning to construct a fence at its border with Slovenia to check the influx of refugees into Europe.
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said the fence will ensure “an orderly, controlled entry” into the country.
The plan marks another dramatic change to the visa-free Schengen regime allowing free travel across Europe.
Source of division
Tens of thousands of refugees, mostly fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, have been trying to reach Austria and Slovenia over the past few weeks on the way to Germany and other EU states in northern Europe before winter sets in.
The refugee crisis is increasingly turning into a divisive issue among the EU states, with some members calling for more restrictive measures to stem the flow.
Germany reacted to the Austrian plans with a harsh criticism.
“We do not believe that the current migrant crisis that Europe is facing can be resolved with the building of fences or walls,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Vienna’s move came after Slovenia, another Schengen state, said it would build a fence along its border with Croatia if the recent EU plans failed to resolve the issue. Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania have also announced that they might set up their own barriers.
Hungary has already constructed razor-wire fences on its frontiers with Serbia and Croatia. If other EU states follow suit, all routes being used by refugees to get to Europe will be shuttered.
As part of a collective measure, the bloc’s leaders have agreed to send 400 border guards a week to Slovenia, and the country is warning members to fulfill the pledge before it resorts to its own drastic measures.
“If the situation worsens and the Brussels action plan is not fulfilled, then Slovenia has several scenarios prepared, including the installation of a fence guarded by forces,” said Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec earlier this week.
Europe is facing record refugee arrivals. While a few European leaders support an open-door refugee policy, others are in favor of controlling the EU’s external borders, deporting more people and paying third countries to keep asylum seekers on their soil.
According to the latest figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 704,220 refugees have reached Europe’s shores so far this year while a total of 3,257 people have either died or gone missing in their perilous journey to the continent.