Sunday

21st Jan 2018

Austrian police fear 'problems' if Germany slows refugee intake

  • Refugees crossing from Slovenia into Austria at Sentilj (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Refugees and authorities on the Slovenia-Austria border seem interested in getting people through the new corridor into the EU as quickly as possible, amid thousands of fresh arrivals.

The crossing between Slovenia’s Sentilj and Austria’s Spielfeld, two sleepy towns less than a kilometre apart on either side of the border, has become the new flashpoint in the migrant crisis, after Hungary sealed its frontier withy Croatia over a week ago.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Volunteers say goodbye to migrants, whom they befriended during the long wait to cross (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Some 2,000 people seeking refuge in Europe were, on Sunday (25 October), herded towards the Austrian border by Slovenian riot police.

Carrying blankets and a few precious belongings, they walked impatiently toward cordons of Austrian officers, who sorted them into smaller groups to make it easier to board buses.

The buses take the people to camps across Austria, before they are transported onwards to Germany.

Local police told EUobserver some refugee families sleep on the freezing ground instead of in the four heated tents provided by Austria because they fear losing their place on the coach.

A few days ago, some refugees broke through a fence separating them from the buses.

The situation appeared more calm on Sunday, but Austria has deployed military vehicles to the site to keep order.

“The calm is always a question of how many places there are in the camps, right now the situation is under control,” said Wolfgang Braunsar, an Austrian police press officer in Spielfeld.

“If there are no free places, then it’s not easy,” he added.

New places in the Austrian camps come up only as fast as Germany is willing to take in people.

“If Germany does not let them in fast enough, we have a problem,” Braunsar said.

At Spielfeld, 350 policemen and 700 army personnel are trying to handle daily arrivals of 4,000 to 5,000 people.

“We seek humanity, freedom, independence. We seek Europe,” Fawzi, an English teacher in his 40s, who came with his 14 year-old daughter and with his wife from Baghdad, told this website.

“We didn’t have rights in Iraq - you’re only allowed to drink, eat, and sleep,” he said, explaining why he decided to leave.

His aim is to reach Sweden, where he has family and friends.

Meanwile, Bart, an Austrian volunteer who came to help with food supplies, noted the situation becomes hectic at night because people want to keep on moving instead of waiting around in the cold weather.

“More and more people come. It is their last chance to make it before the real winter comes,” he predcited.

“What will happen if more borders will be closes and people are left wandering around in the [old] minefields in Croatia?” he added.

The military presence on the Slovenian side of the crossing is more low key - there are armed guards at the migrant camps, but no vehicles.

There are large white tents, containing military beds, which can house up to 2,000 people, and more volunteers bringing food.

“This is like a five star hotel, compared to the other camp in Maribor, where Slovenia kept us like prisoners for two days, without food,” Omar, a Palestinian refugee from Damascus, noted.

Sentilj was the only crossing point into Austria until Friday, but volunteers said another one is opening up to the west, in the town of Jesenice.

“They are really grateful for everything, I have only seen sad and tired faces, but no incidents,” said Maja, a volunteer with the local Red Cross, who is trying to help people who got separated from their family members along the way.

A small store has also opened up in a van in the Sentilj camp.

The Kompas Shop used to serve tourists crossing here, but as the official border crossing is now closed, and some of the refugees have cash, the owners decided to move the van into the migrant settlement.

“They [the refugees] pay market prices, no problems here,” said Sara, as she unloadd new supplies for the shop.

“It is heavy though,” she added. “You see things you don’t really want to see, like babies and old people exhausted from the traveling.”

The shop sells canned beer, but it is not a big hit among the mostly Muslim refugees, for whom alcohol is forbidden.

“We have only sold five or six so far,” she noted.

EU mini-summit to 'slow flows' of refugees

Commission blueprint, seen by EUobserver, says frontline states in Western Balkans to receive hundreds of extra border guards to “slow down flows” of refugees.

Opinion

Time for Plan C on the refugee crisis

Now that it has become clear that relocation and border protection offer only limited chances of success, EU leaders should launch a youth programme to help refugees and address the root causes.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap