Just a few weeks after the opening of a new “Balkan route” of travel through Albania, Montegegro, Bosnia and Croatia, Austrian forces will conduct border-security exercises on June 25 in the border town of Spielfeld in preparation for a wave of 80,000 migrants expected to travel through the route to Western and Central Europe, reports Kronen Zeitung, Austria’s most widely-circulated newspaper.
Taking part in the exercise will be between 600 and 1,000 members of the riot police, “Puma” border squad and Federal Army will participate in the exercise.
“The situation is critical,” says General Fritz Lang, director of Austria’s Federal Criminal Police Office, who says that 30 illegal border crossings are attempted every day.
According to Lang, the migrants are primarily young male loners, “many of whom are considered “terrorist fighters,” which require strong border protection.
Austria constructed a reinforced fence on the Slovenian border in late 2015 after a flood of asylum seekers began pouring into the country from Slovenia. Slovenia, meanwhile, built a wall at their southern border with Croatia to stem the flow of migrants north.
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“We must also be prepared for the case that in a sudden large migratory flow, the border protection measures in these friendly countries no longer help,” said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, adding “We also show that we are serious. There will be no registration and wave-taking with us, but a real defensive attitude.”
“The problem has started with the sentence ‘We can do it'”
Lang, commenting on the “unsightly scenes” when migrants attempt to enter the country, said “We certainly will not defuse our own situation if we simply mislead people by waving migrants through. And our policemen will be standing so close to the Slovenian border that any application for asylum there will be a case for the Slovenians.”
Kickl, meanwhile, had some harsh words for German chancellor Angela Merkel, saying “The whole problem started with the sentence ‘We can do it’,” in reference to accepting the influx of migrants sweeping Europe.
Austria’s June 25 border exercise falls on Slovenia’s Statehood Day – which has upset Slovenians.
“We’ve been notified about the planned exercise. We expressed disagreement with the date, the location as well as the concept of the exercise itself. The number of migrants entering Austria via Slovenia is not such as to demand such exercises,” tweeted the Slovenian police – who say just 13 migrants had been returned from Austria to Slovenia so far this year.