STA, 9 May 2019 - A 79-year-old man working in his vineyard around the south-eastern town of Črnomelj on the border with Croatia was kidnapped on Wednesday by a group of migrants who entered Slovenia illegally, the police told the press in Ljubljana on Thursday.
A 25-year-old Morocco citizen and two 18-year-olds from Algeria were arrested by the Italian police in the town of Basovizza last evening and returned to Slovenia.
They are in detention on suspicion of kidnapping and theft, and will be brought before an investigating magistrate within 48 hours, said Tomaž Perošlja from the General Police Department.
Under Slovenia's penal code, kidnapping carries a prison sentence from six months to five years, or less if the kidnapper releases the victim of their own accord.
Peršolja explained the man had been tied up near the village of Mali Nerajec in the Bela Krajina region in early afternoon, put into his car's boot and driven several hours around Slovenia before being untied and released in a village near the town of Sežana on the south-western border with Italy.
The kidnappers took his documents before proceeding to Italy. Upon release, the man asked for help the nearby locals, who called the police and his family after 6pm.
The police have also established that the three foreign citizens were processed by Slovenian police before, according to Peršolja.
They entered the country illegally on 29 April, did not express an intention to ask for international protection in Slovenia and were returned to Croatia on 30 April.
The kidnapped man's daughter told the news portal siol.net yesterday her father, who was not injured, had been kidnapped by four migrants.
Pršolja explained police were still trying to establish all the details, saying it was possible the fourth kidnapper had left the car earlier.
The police, which have already beefed up control at the most sensitive border areas, are still searching for him.
The incident could further heat the debate on safety along the border due to a rise in illegal migrations, especially during the ongoing campaign for the EU elections.
Two civil groups from Bela Krajina and the municipality of Ilirska Bistrica, which have been warning about poor safety of local population, will hold a news conference at 2pm, also featuring the kidnapped man's daughter.
Meanwhile, the opposition Democrats (SDS) have already demanded a session of the National Security Council to discuss the situation on the southern border.
As party leader Janez Janša said on Twitter this morning, the government was not in control of the situation and did not it take it seriously.