STA, 22 July 2019 - The Slovenian Armed Forces deployed on Monday an additional 35 soldiers to assist police protecting the border. The reinforcements will work with the Koper police department, with the soldiers using surveillance equipment as well as armoured vehicles.
Slovenian Armed Forces representative Miha Kuhar told the press that this put the total number of troops on the southern border to 130.
The main task of the soldiers is participating in mixed patrols with the police, but they also conduct independent patrols and monitoring tasks, as well as maintain the border fence, Kuhar explained. The soldiers are also allowed to protect police officer in case the latter are attacked.
Kuhar said additional powers for the army, which have for instance been urged by Ilirska Bistrica mayor Emil Rojec, would only be possible if the government again decided to activate article 37.a of the defence act.
"We are also ready for that option," he said about the additional tasks, such as helping police control and guide groups of immigrants and refugees, which were in force between February and May 2016.
The Koper police has been overstretched in coping with an increase in illegal border crossings this year and has asked the army for assistance, the Slovenian Armed Forces said.
The deployment of additional troops comes just weeks after Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said security on Slovenia's southern border would be beefed up, including with additional soldiers and new equipment such as drones.
The army may exert limited police powers on the border since the passage of legislation to this effect in October 2015, while soldiers have been helping police patrol the border since February 2016.
Since then, soldiers have been part of almost 51,000 patrols. Soldiers are mostly sent to strengthen patrols but they also help with setting up and maintaining temporary barriers and conducting surveillance.
The army also provided assistance to the national Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief during the peak refugee inflow in 2015 and 2016, with soldiers assisting at migrant reception centres.
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