VIENNA (AFP) – Austria aims to tighten border controls, in particular on its frontier with Slovakia following a rise in migrants trying to enter the country, the defence minister was quoted as saying Wednesday.
“I am noticing a trend here that the smugglers are now using Slovakia,” the Kurier daily cited Hans-Peter Doskozil as saying in its online edition.
He said that 299 migrants have been intercepted so far this year in Lower Austria state bordering Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
This compares with 174 in Burgenland state, whose border with Hungary has been the main area for controls so far.
Many of those entering from Slovakia cross via train, meaning more checks on trains are needed, Doskozil said, adding that 100 soldiers could be made available to assist.
At the western end of the country, Doskozil also said 292 people were caught so far in 2017 in Tyrol state after crossing from Italy but that most of these were sent back over the border.
“There were only 25 asylum claims in Tyrol. Here the sending back is working. But we need to be cautious and keep an eye out for new developments at the Brenner Pass,” he said.
The measures are part of a package that Doskozil and Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka aim to present in 10 days, Kurier reported.
It also said that Austria will host a meeting of interior and defence ministers from central European countries on February 8.
Austria received a record 90,000 asylum claims in 2015 as hundreds of thousands of migrants, many fleeing the Syrian war, trekked up through the Balkans towards Germany and elsewhere.
This “Balkan Route” has since been largely closed off however and asylum claims in Austria more than halved to 42,000 last year.
Since 2015 Austria has imposed border controls and has readied additional physical measures such as barriers in case of a major new influx.