STA, 16 October 2019 - The Slovenian police recorded a drop in illegal migration in September, however the number of illegal border crossings in the first nine months of the year is still 70.5% above last year's figure.
Since the beginning of the year, police handled 11,786 cases of people crossing into the country illegally, which compares to 6,911 in the first nine months of last year.
More than 3,000 of them were from Pakistan, with roughly 1,600 from Algeria and 1,300 from Afghanistan, data from the police show.
The number of migrants seeking asylum has been increasing as well. As many as 3,856 asked for international protection in the eight months to the end of August, which is more than in the whole 2018.
After being accommodated in asylum centres, the migrants often continue on their way to their chosen destination countries. Most of those are citizens of Algeria.
The number of third-country citizens turned away at the border rose by almost 14% year-on-year to 3,397 in the first nine months of the year. Most of these were denied entry at the border with Croatia.
Slovenia returned a total of 8,050 illegal migrants to foreign law enforcement authorities in the first nine months of the year, most of them (7,956) to Croatia.
In the same period, 491 were returned to Slovenian authorities, most of them (213) by Italy. In the same period last year 436 migrants were returned to Slovenia.
STA, 15 October 2019 - The Novo Mesto police, which noticed signs of a migrant smuggling ring on the south-eastern section of the border with Croatia a year ago, said on Tuesday they had caught 11 individuals suspected of involvement in at least 30 smuggling operations.
The investigation showed that prices for the transport of individual migrants ranged between 300 and 400 euros.
France Božičnik of the Novo Mesto Police Administration said that the smuggling had mostly been done in the boots of cars rented abroad.
Several arrests of Slovenian suspects, aged between 20 and 30, and mostly from the area near the border, were made by Slovenian police, while Croatian police also arrested several Slovenian and Croatian citizens.
Criminal complaints have been filed against 11 individuals, with several house searches conducted in September yielding evidence of a people smuggling ring.
The head of the ring has been in prison since June over unrelated criminal acts, while the rest have not been detained. They face up to eight years in prison.
Meanwhile, Božičnik said that a total of 86 of migrant smugglers had been arrested in area overseen by Novo Mesto police this year. They had tried to smuggle 530 foreigners. In 2018, 52 smugglers were caught, who tried to get 290 migrants across the border.
STA, 16 October 2019 - Two citizens of Morocco were involved in a car accident in central Slovenia at 4 AM this morning. According to police, the pair, which had illegally crossed the border, hit a road fence on a regional road between Litija and Zagorje, just east of Ljubljana while driving a stolen car.
The cause of the accident was speeding and the car was allegedly stolen in the Novo Mesto area, the Ljubljana police department said in a press release.
The driver sustained light injuries and was transported to the Trbovlje general hospital in an ambulance, while the passenger was not injured.
The police investigation continues.
STA, 14 October 2019 - The Constitutional Court has annulled part of the controversial amendments passed in January 2017 that define a special temporary regime on the border in the event of mass migration.
The Court annulled sections of clause 10.b which would effectively allow the country to suspend asylum law in special circumstances that would have to be endorsed by absolute majority in parliament.
The special system, imposed for a six-month period with the possibility of extension in a pre-defined area, would involve refusal to admit foreigners who do not meet entry criteria and the expulsion of those who have already entered the country unlawfully.
If they expressed the intention of asking for asylum, requests would be rejected by police as unfounded unless there were systemic shortcomings with regard to asylum in the EU country from which such a person entered.
Such systemic shortcomings would include the risk of torture, inhumane or degrading behaviour.
The amendments were passed despite concerns raised by NGOs, the Council of Europe and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that they were in breach of international treaties.
Due to the concerns, the amendment was challenged at the top court by the human rights ombudsman in April 2017.
The Constitutional Court announced on Monday that it several sections of clause 10.b violated the Article 18 of the Constitution, which guarantees the principle of non-refoulement.
Clause 10.b does not guarantee, neither in Slovenia nor a neighbouring EU member, access to fair and effective legal procedure that would guarantee a substantive assessment that refoulement could not put the person in jeopardy of non-humane and degrading treatment.
A country may return an individual to a third country only if the third country is deemed safe; however, trust between countries should not be absolute. The person requesting asylum must get the opportunity to challenge the presumption of safety in this country.
Moreover, the contentious clauses also narrow the number of reasons that can be cited by those who are challenging the assumed safety of the neighbouring EU member state, the court said.
Also, the rejection of intention to request for asylum by one country does not obligate the neighbouring EU member state to accept this person, the court said.
The decision was adopted with eight votes in favour and one against, with judge Klemen Jaklič also issuing a dissenting opinion. In it he said that he had been subjected to "unacceptable" pressure due to his dissenting position in this case.
The Interior Ministry, which had drafted the 2017 changes to the foreigners act, said it would respect the Constitutional Court decision. Vesna Györkös Žnidar, the then interior minister, has not commented on the decision.
The Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina, who challenged the changes in Constitutional Court, is happy with the decision. He sees the decision as a "welcome confirmation of constitutional and convention standards ... Being a country government by the rule of law, we cannot just bypass them when this may seem convenient".
Most political parties meanwhile seem reluctant to comment on the decision. The opposition Left labelled the decision on the "obnoxious" legislative changes made by the Miro Cerar government as appropriate.
The party moreover said that this alone would not suffice, as reports suggested that migrants were being returned and prevented from requesting asylum also without the contentious changes in force.
Also happy was MEP Milan Brglez, former parliamentary speaker and a former MP for the then senior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC). He was one of several coalition MPs who voted against the changes in January 2017.
While Karl Erjavec, the president of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said he could not yet comment because he had not read the decision yet, Zmago Jelinčič, the leader of the opposition National Party (SNS) said that the Constitutional Court should first and foremost protect the Slovenian state and its citizens.
Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša tweeted that "the left majority" at the Constitutional Court "abolished the safeguard in the foreigners act at a time when we are in danger of a refugee wave once more due to the Turks. There is no end to betrayal and anti-Slovenian policy of the leftists."
STA, 2 October 2019 - Even though the agreement on joint patrols policing the Slovenian-Italian border ended on Monday, police cooperation between the two countries is still in place in certain areas, in particular in the Koper Police Department district, police told the STA on Wednesday.
However, joint police patrols are no longer patrolling the Nova Gorica Police Department district.
Joint patrols were carried out between 1 July and 30 September. During this time, 46 joint patrols were deployed in the Koper Police area - 36 in Slovenia and 10 in Italy. Altogether, 276 hours were used for patrolling and a total of twelve Slovenian police officers were part of the joint patrols, said the police.
In the first nine months of this year the Koper Police apprehended about 3,920 illegal migrants (some 1,920 during the joint patrolling period), an increase over the same period last year when they caught some 3,270 foreigners who had crossed the border illegally (about 1,780 during the July-September period last year).
Despite the agreement coming to an end, Italy and Slovenia have carried on with policing the border together due to the pressing illegal migration situation and based on the agreement's terms and arrangement with the Italian authorities.
Both countries are also interested in extending their cooperation to other forms of joint effort enabled by the agreement, including joint analyses and forming a joint investigative task force.
According to the Koper police, joint patrols are effective and successful at their job. The police officers involved in them are motivated for this kind of work and are directly exchanging know-how, experience and information regarding illegal migrations.
On the other hand, the Nova Gorica police have decided not to proceed with joint patrolling, having agreed with the Italian authorities to end such police cooperation already on 9 August.
During the joint patrolling period, six joint patrols were carried out in the Nova Gorica area - half of them in Slovenia.
Until 29 September, the Nova Gorica police apprehended 190 illegal migrants (some 40 during the joint patrolling period), which is more than in the same period last year - 61 persons who had illegally crossed the Slovenian-Croatian border (some 30 during the July-August period last year).
Numerous outlets are carrying a report from the Associated Press about armed individuals – carrying knives – now patrolling Slovenia’s border with Croatia. These are part of Andrej Šiško’s Štajerska varda (“Home Guard”), the anti-migrant movement led by the former football hooligan, presidential candidate and recent prison inmate. Šiško is quoted as saying his goal is “to train people to defend their country and help the military and police at a time of massive migrations from the African and Asian states, mostly Muslims.”
One member of the group is Blaž Židar, a “47-year-old former Slovenian army soldier, dressed in camouflage trousers with a long knife hanging from his belt” who goes on daily patrols near his village of Radovica. The story quotes him as saying “I would prefer to enjoy my retirement peacefully, but security reasons are preventing this.” He goes on to say that his six children often join him on patrol, along with his wife, “because they have to learn how to protect their nation from intruders.”
Related: 1 in 8 Slovenians is an immigrant
The reporter, Dušan Stojanović, goes on to interview Miha Kovač, a Slovenian political analyst and professor at the University of Ljubljana, who describes such anti-migrant groups as made up of “guys with big beer bellies who don’t have much of an education, who didn’t have much of a career, who don’t know what to do with themselves in the contemporary world. They find their meaning in this kind of movement and this kind of hatred toward migrants.”
While Kovač doesn’t see the movement as an immediate danger, he says the problem would get worse if Slovenia had significant numbers of immigrants, from 20-50,000.
Meanwhile, the story claims the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to the patrols, as long as they stay within the law. As France Bozicnik, the head of criminal police at a police station near the border, states: “People call us on the phone every day and give us information about suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons, and we sincerely thank them for this information.”
STA, 13 September 2019 - Slovenian Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar proposed that Slovenia and Austria form joint police patrols to police the Slovenian-Austrian border, as he hosted his counterpart Wolfgang Peschorn for a visit in Ljubljana on Friday.
Peschorn, saying it was a good proposal, announced the Austrian government would examine it to see if it could fully contain the migration pressure.
Slovenia has recently introduced similar police patrols with Italy.
Poklukar reiterated Slovenia's stance that Austria's border checks with Slovenia had a negative impact on local population on both sides of the border, causing economic damage and long lines of vehicles on the shared border.
He said this was the reason why he had suggested Austria eliminated border checks and set up mixed police patrols with Slovenia.
The Austrian minister said the government planned to take a new decision on the border checks in mid-October.
Austria introduced checks on the border with Slovenia, which is an internal EU border, at the peak of the 2015 refugee crisis, and has been extending them ever since.
Poklukar also announced Slovenia would soon send its police attache to the Austrian capital of Vienna.
Both ministers said they supported effective control of the EU's external borders and a comprehensive solution to the migration issue at the EU level.
The Salzburg Forum, meeting in Vienna in November, will thus discuss initiatives for a more efficient asylum and migration policy.
A message needs to be sent out that illegal migrations and human smuggling do not pay off, the Austrian minister stressed, adding that this applied to the Balkan route as well as other routes in the Mediterranean.
Poklukar acknowledged that illegal migrations have been increasing for four years, but he said there was "no cause for concern". "Slovenia is a safe country and Slovenian police are managing the situation."
As Poklukar noted, Slovenian police had apprehended roughly 9,800 illegal migrants so far this year, with the majority returned to Croatia; Austria, meanwhile returned only 62 persons to Slovenia.
"This data shows that Slovenia conducts effective control of its southern border."
Both officials also commented on the threat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will open Turkey's borders and let Syrian refugees into Europe.
Peschorn said "announcements are commonplace in polit
On the sidelines of the visit, he decorated two Slovenian police officers wiics, but it is always important what happens," but stressed that the situation on the Turkish-Greek border would inform Austria's decision on whether to extent police checks.
Poklukar said that the 2016 deal the EU struck with Turkey in 2016 helped significantly reduce migrations from Syria and the Middle East. Slovenia's position is that the deal is very important.
STA, 12 September 2019 - A sports journalist of the commercial broadcaster POP TV was apprehended last Sunday by the Slovenian police on the border with Croatia under suspicion of smuggling illegal migrants to Slovenia.
Reporting on the incident on its web portal 24ur.com on Thursday, POP TV condemned and distanced itself from the actions by the journalist, who has already been dismissed.
The Ljubljana-based private broadcaster regretted the incident and explained that it had not been acquainted with the acts by the journalist committed outside his job and that it had not been aware of the possible personal circumstances he had found himself in.
POP TV condemned any violations of regulations, adding that, as smuggling and assistance in smuggling migrants across the border with Croatia was on the rise, it would continue to report extensively on the "abuse of the distress of refugees and of the victims of smuggling".
STA, 12 September 2019 - Two Serbians smuggling a dozen illegal migrants were arrested early morning on Thursday following a car chase of at least 10 kilometres. When the car was forced to a stop, the police found ten Pakistanis and two Indians cramped in the back seat.
The police tried to pull the car over just outside the town of Ljutomer in northeast Slovenia, but the driver continued driving at high speed in the direction of the motorway, the Murska Sobota Police Administration said.
This started a car chase that ended when the car driven by one of the Serbians crashed into the police car and then hit the safety rail on the motorway, according to the police.
The press release does not specify how long the chase lasted, but the nearest motorway entrance is some 10 kilometres away from the location where the police spotted the suspicious car.
The man in the passenger seat escaped the car but was tracked down by the police. The Serbian citizens were both detained and will be charged with smuggling illegal migrants, which carries a sentence of up to five years and a fine.
All our stories on illegal migration can be found here
STA, 10 September 2019 - Ormož police have caught a man from Ljubljana transporting in his van as many as 40 foreigners who had illegally crossed the border. One person had to be hospitalised, while the 35-year-old driver was brought before an investigating judge, who ordered that he be placed in custody.
Next to the 40 foreigners caught in the van, police found another six, who could not fit in the van, in a near-by forest.
Among the foreigners apprehended 40 were the citizens of Pakistan, five of Afghanistan and one of India, the Maribor Police Department said in a press release.
One of the foreigners had to be admitted to a hospital because his health condition suddenly deteriorated, while the rest have already been returned to Croatian police.
The 35-year-old driver from Ljubljana remains in custody in Ptuj.
STA, 5 September 2019 - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar is known for saying the Slovenian police are fully in control of migration. "If this was not the case, we would have more illegal migrants in the country, at railway stations, cities and abandoned buildings," he told the STA. He said the country was cooperating well with Croatia and Italy.
"Slovenia being a safe country is a fact confirmed by international comparisons and many countries envy us on this," Poklukar said in an interview with the STA.
He believes that the statistics on the foreigners apprehended prove that police are on top of things.
Slovenia has apprehended more than 9,600 people this year and some 460 persons have been returned to Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary. Poklukar believes this shows that only few people avoid being caught.
He pointed to the beefed up security measures such as additional fences on the border and high resolution systems of video- and thermal cameras.
According to the minister, police are also successfully preventing migrant smuggling by individuals and criminal rings mostly from the Balkans and Slovenia.
Investigators have formed special task forces to deal with this and police are cooperating well with Frontex, Europol and Interpol.
Poklukar also praised cooperation with other countries. Cooperation with Croatia has improved significantly since the 2015 and 2016 mass migrations, he said.
Slovenian police officers are cooperating in mixed patrols with Croatian and Italian counterparts. The deal on the mixed patrols with Italy envisages such cooperation until the end of September.
"We are evaluating the situation on a daily basis and I have found them to be successfully preventing illegal human trafficking," Poklukar said about the patrols.
He is confident that the success of Slovenian police will be recognised by Italy. He reiterated Slovenia opposed a fence on the Slovenian-Italian border for historical reasons and because it would disturb the lives of locals.
The country is also bothered by the fact that Austria continues to conduct controls on its border with Slovenia, an issue Poklukar plans to discuss with his Austrian counterpart in Ljubljana next Monday.
According to the minister, Slovenian police are also monitoring the migration flow in Balkan countries, in particular in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and are helping protect the borders in Serbia and North Macedonia.
Four new police attaches are to be deployed to Skopje, Rome, Zagreb and Vienna shortly.
Asked whether the mass influx of migrants such as the one Europe witnessed a few years ago could happen again, Poklukar said that there was some fear that the migration flow would enhance every autumn due to upcoming winter but not in the scope as in 2015 and 2016.
He said Slovenia was ready for a potential influx and expected Croatia to protect the EU's external border as efficiently as Slovenia is protecting the Schengen border.
STA, 28 August 2019 - Police in Celje have apprehended several persons suspected of trafficking some 280 migrants across the Slovenian border in a sting that involved over 70 criminal investigators conducting house searches in and around the city.
Eight suspects face trafficking charges and two will be additionally charged with offences related to illicit drugs. Four of the suspects remain in detention and one is abroad. All of them are Slovenian citizens, the Celje police said on Wednesday.
The suspects, some of whom have previous trafficking convictions, are believed to have run a part of a larger international criminal racket specialised in trafficking migrants.
The group is believed to have trafficked migrants from Croatia through Slovenia and into Italy in collaboration with multiple other foreign gangs, charging EUR 2,000-3,000 per person, according to Damijan Turk, the head of the Celje criminal police.
The racket enlisted drug addicts and other persons from the margins of society to carry out the actual transport with vans and cars, often even in rented recreational vehicles. The drivers would get EUR 250-500 per migrant.
Uroš Lavrič, the head of the organised crime division at the General Police Directorate, said human trafficking activities of criminal rings had picked up recently as they take advantage of illegal migrations along the Balkan route.
"They use various methods to keep the trafficking covert. They are ruthless," he said about the traffickers' habit of stuffing between 30 and 50 migrants into the cargo holds of vans.
Police have arrested 273 suspected traffickers so far this year, compared to 218 in the whole of 2018.
They intercepted over 9,000 migrants who tried to cross the border illegally, up 62% over the year before, show data by the General Police Directorate.
A total of 6,223 persons were returned to Croatia and 3,255 requested asylum.