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Slovenia parliament approves police sealing border with Croatia

Slovenia has passed a bill that allows police to seal the border with Croatia to prevent migrants from entering the country. The nation is on the edge of the Schengen Area of free travel in Europe.

Slovenian lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that allows its police to seal the border with neighboring Croatia to prevent migrants from passing through the country to western and central European nations.

The amendments to the Aliens Act were passed 47-18 in the 90 member body. With the amendments in place, Slovenian authorities can reject migrants seeking asylum at the Slovenia-Croatia border if migrant numbers suddenly increase and "threaten public order and internal security."

Slovenia saw nearly 500,000 border crossings in the six months between September 2015 and March 2016 when neighboring countries closed their borders to migrants. Slovenia Prime Minister Miro Cerar had said Slovenia, a nation of 2 million people, could not endure another large influx of migrants. Should another migration crisis occur, the government will ask lawmakers to enact the amendments made Thursday to close the border for at least six months.

'Serious backward step'

Human rights groups were quick to decry the ruling, as Slovenia is the first country in the main section of the free travel Schengen Aone along the so-called Balkan route. Amnesty International called the law a "serious backward step for human rights in Slovenia."

"By sealing its borders to desperate people and turning its back on its international obligations, Slovenia is treading the same unseemly path as its neighbors – Hungary and Austria," said Amnesty International spokeswoman Jelena Sesar, referencing Hungarian and Austrian border laws.

The Council of Europe, Europe's largest human rights organization, demanded last week that Slovenia not prevent migration through its nation. "Slovenian parliamentarians should reject amendments to the Aliens Act that are contrary to international human rights and refugee protection standards by which Slovenia is bound," said Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks on January 17.

kbd/bw (AFP, Reuters)

 

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