Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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.

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us