Slovenia gives army expanded powers to tackle refugee crisis | News | DW | 21.10.2015
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Slovenia gives army expanded powers to tackle refugee crisis

Ljubljana has granted the military the power to patrol the border where police are absent. Slovenia has seen thousands of migrants come through from Croatia just this week.

Slovenia's parliament passed a new law on Wednesday morning allowing the army more power to assist border police. The small eastern European nation has become the latest bottleneck in the refugee crisis as its neighbors begin to shut their borders.

The legislation, crafted by an all-night government meeting on Tuesday, allows the army to patrol the frontier even when border police are not present. The army has already been deployed at the border since Monday, but so far only when directly assisting squads of police officers.

Slovenia has seen over 20,000 migrants cross its borders since Saturday, most hoping to continue on to Austria. According to the government, at least 6,000 were kept in the country's refugee shelters overnight Tuesday.

Slovenia to call for EU funds

"(Today) we will officially ask the EU ... for police back-up and for financial help," Prime Minister Miro Cerar told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the parliamentary vote.

Ljubljana has previously complained that their small nation of only 2 million inhabitants does not have the space nor the funds to sustain the refugee influx across the borders, and has called on larger EU members for assistance. A meeting of ten EU countries, including Slovenia and Germany, to discuss the refugee flows along the Western Balkans route has been set by the European Commission for Sunday.

Opposition lawmakers did not believe that deploying soldiers and asking for EU funds were enough, and suggested Slovenia follow Hungary's suit and erect a fence, specifically on the border with Croatia.

An interior ministry official said that the prospect "safeguarding border crossings with physical obstacles" has not been excluded in case the amount of refugees continues to rise.

After Hungary closed its border with Croatia on Friday, a domino effect has echoed through the Balkans with many thousands of refugees held up at border crossings, turning Slovenia into the new main crossing point for those hoping to make it to western and northern Europe.

es/rg (AFP, Reuters)

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