More Troops to Protect Schengen Border, Protests in Črnomelj After Abducton

By , 13 May 2019, 09:49 AM Politics
The Slovenian Army putting up a border fence in 2016 The Slovenian Army putting up a border fence in 2016 Wikimedia - www.mo.gov.si - CC by 3.0

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STA, 12 May 2019 - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec has announced that the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) have deployed additional soldiers to the border with Croatia to help the police manage the increasing number of illegal crossings of the border.

Speaking to the press on the sidelines of a Victory Day ceremony in Topolšica on Saturday, Erjavec said that the help had been requested by the police, adding that the SAF had more units ready to be deployed at any moment.

According to the SAF, an additional 35 soldiers were deployed on Saturday to the southern border, and the current number of soldiers in the daily shift is 66.

The additional 35 soldiers have been deployed to the area covered by the Ilirska Bistrica police station (SW), while the remaining 31 serve in various locations, the army told the STA.

The police and armed forces have thus responded to the increasing number of illegal crossings of the border, as detected also by the locals living along the border.

The calls for better border control culminated after a 79-year-old local was abducted in his car on Wednesday by four illegal migrants.

Erjavec said on Saturday that he was in constant touch with Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar regarding the issue, while Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar and the army chief-of-staff, Maj-Gen Alenka Ermenc were coordinating the operative measures.

"I can say that we have units ready to boost the presence of the Slovenian army on the southern border at any moment, of course in mixed units with the police," the minister added.

Črnomelj protesters demand better control of border

STASTA, 11 May 2019 - Several hundred people gathered in the town of Črnomelj (SE) Saturday afternoon demanding better control of Slovenia's southern border. The rally was called after four illegal migrants abducted an elderly man earlier this week and used his car to drive to the border with Italy [more on that story here].

"Instead of ensuring our safety, those in charge have been telling us that Slovenia is safe and that there is no reason for fear," said Maja Kocjan, the president of the local civil initiative.

The protesters believe that the government and the police are not doing enough to protect the locals living along the border, with many signing a petition with five key demands. Unless they are taken seriously, another rally is to be organised in Ljubljana.

The petitioners demand that the government prevent illegal migrants from crossing the border, provide protection to people and property, and deploy additional police and military officers, if necessary. Calls like "Military to the border!" were heard a number of times during the protest.

The petition also demands changes to the asylum legislation so that people coming from safe countries could not request asylum in the country.

Moreover, the government must also stop procedures for the establishment of migrant registration centres, as protesters fear that these would become permanent migrant centres.

One such centre has been planned for the area of Ilirska Bistrica, a town further west along the southern border, where a civil initiative has been fighting against the centre for months.

Ilirska Bistrica Mayor Emil Rojc, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SD), also addressed the rally. Meanwhile, the Črnomelj Mayor Andrej Kavšek was not at the rally.

People have come to Črnomelj from all across the country and it was hard to tell how many of them were locals, according a report by to TV Slovenija.

A number of politicians also joined the protest, among them right-leaning candidates vying in the European Parliament election.

Also there was Janez Janša, the head of the opposition Democrats (SDS), accompanied by several senior members of the party, including MEP Milan Zver. Local initiative head Kocjan is also a member.

Janša told the press that the SDS had been trying to get the demands in the petition enacted for years. He said that they would "continue to pressure those in charge to start listening to the people".

He was critical that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has not called a meeting of the National Security Council to improve border security, not even after the abduction.

Also at the rally was Marjan Podobnik, the president of the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS), which had joined forces with the SDS for the 26 May election.

Senior members of the non-parliamentary right-wing Homeland League (DOM) and United Slovenia were also in the crowd.

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