Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Austrian soldiers to stop migrants from Italy

  • Local authorities in Italy called Austria's move "unjustified". (Photo: Jurjen van Enter)

Austria is sending soldiers to stop migrants coming from Italy, while Bulgaria has said the EU should “defend” its borders by “force of arms”.

Austria said it would deploy 70 soldiers, but no armoured vehicles, at the Brenner Pass to Italy on Thursday (17 August).

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.

It said between 700 and 1,000 migrants were entering the country from Italy each month, many of them on freight trains.

“It’s important not only to prevent illegal migration but, above all, to save human lives,” Helmut Tomac, an Austrian police chief, said on Wednesday, citing the fact that two migrants were found dead on a goods train last year.

Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden have the European Commission’s blessing to impose temporary border checks despite being part of Schengen, the passport-free travel zone in Europe.

The military deployment is part of a wider EU migrant crackdown, including on its external borders.

Bulgaria said on Thursday that it would send 600 soldiers to stop people crossing from Turkey.

Krassimir Karakachanov, its defence minister, told Die Welt, a German newspaper, that this would include “highly specialised combat groups”.

"We cannot allow illegal migrants to come to Europe in large numbers,” he said, adding: “We should deploy Nato or EU forces in Italy and Greece and defend the external borders of the European Union by force of arms”.

Migrant routes

Italy and Greece are still the main route for asylum seekers and economic migrants trying to enter the EU.

Almost 96,500 people came to Italy by crossing the central Mediterranean from 1 January until 6 August, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an international body based in Geneva.

Some 11,700 came to Greece via the eastern Mediterranean and 8,200 came to Spain.

The Greek route had been the main one, with 161,000 people last year.

But this was all-but closed by an EU deal with Turkey to stop people from sailing to Greek islands, creating extra pressure on Italy and Spain.

Italy saw 100,000 arrivals in the January to August period last year. The 2017 figure would have been higher, but a deal with Libya to stop migrants in Libyan waters and to chase away NGO rescue boats led to a recent drop-off in numbers.

The Spanish figure for this year is already three times higher than for last year.

Romania has also recorded a five-fold increase in irregular crossings compared to last year.

It caught more than 1,400 people trying to sneak into the country in the first half of this year, including a boat carrying 69 Iraqi migrants in the Black Sea last weekend.

Solidarity crisis

The Austrian military action has highlighted the lack of solidarity on immigration in the EU.

Local authorities in north-west Italy said the military deployment was “surprising and unjustified”.

Italian leader Paolo Gentiloni also urged the European Commission in a letter this week to mobilise “a greater European effort to face the migrant phenomenon, which has a structural dimension and concerns the entire European Union”.

EU states had agreed to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece over a two-year period.

They relocated just 20,000 or so, however.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have boycotted the scheme, prompting legal action by the Commission.

Austria and Bulgaria did not publicly boycott the quotas, but did so in effect. Austria, which was due to take 1,953 people, has taken in no one, while Bulgaria, which was due to take 1,302 people, took just 50 from Greece.

France and Germany, which have complained about the EU quota rebels, have also fallen far short of their commitments.

Germany was due to take 27,536 people, but took about 7,000. The French quota was 19,714, but France took about 4,000 people.

Human suffering

The EU border crackdown has been criticised on humanitarian grounds.

The IOM said at least 2,405 people had died trying to cross the Mediterranean to the EU so far this year, compared to 3,193 in the same period last year.

The majority of those coming to Greece were fleeing the war in Syria. Many of those coming via Libya to Italy had fled poverty, but faced torture and sexual violence in Libyan detention camps, according to charities such as the UK-based Save the Children.

Austria readies for migrant border surge

Foreign ministers in Brussels agreed to toughen up measures against Libyan migrant smugglers amid Austrian claims it is ready to "protect" its borders from any sudden mass migrant movements from Italy.

Opinion

Managing migration: a European responsibility

"The EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants", writes migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Opinion

Refugees in limbo on Greek island

Out of sight and out of space: a volunteer documents the conditions, and the state of limbo experienced by refugees on the Greek island of Chios.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

News in Brief

  1. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  2. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  3. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  4. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  5. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  6. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  7. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  8. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  2. European far-right political party risks collapse
  3. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  4. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  5. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  6. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  7. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  8. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?