Slovenia has reinforced border restrictions by installing more durable barriers along its frontier with neighboring Croatia as part of measures to prevent the refugees from passing through the country to reach northern Europe.
Slovenian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Vesna Mitric confirmed on Monday that the older temporary barbed-wire barriers were being replaced with more durable fences, “according to our plans, to close the Balkans route.”
She said the new barrier would be installed around tourist resorts, towns and transit sites along the border with Croatia.
Back in December, Slovenia installed 166 kilometers of wire fence to prevent flow of refugees entering the country from Croatia. Almost 500,000 refugees have crossed that border since October last year, most of them heading for Austria and Germany.
The new restriction has prompted anger among local people in Slovenia’s southern Crnomelj and Metlika regions known by tourists for its wildlife.
“They say it will not affect tourism, but you know, a fence is a fence,” said one of the locals.
Croatia has also banned the transit of most refugees through the country to seal off the Balkan route.
Last week, the European Union and Turkey drafted a proposal to halt the flow of refugees to Europe through sealing off the Balkans route.
The bloc’s leaders and Turkey are set to meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue. They are expected to come to an agreement according to which Turkey would take back refugees who arrive in Greece from Turkey.
In return, the EU has reportedly offered Ankara three billion euros (USD 3.3 billion) for its attempts to stem the flow of refugees arriving in the continent via Turkey.
An estimated 13,000 people are currently living in temporary shelters, designed to house only 2,000 or out in the open on the Greek-Macedonian border, from which the refugees travel through Balkans to reach northern Europe.
According to a recent report by the European Commission bureau of statistics, Eurostat, some 1,255,600 refugees reached Europe in 2015, with more than a third of them having gone to Germany. People from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan topped the Eurostat’s list of refugees.
Most of the refugees are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of refugees from their home countries.
Back in October, the EU vowed to relocate 160,000 refugees, mainly from Greece and Italy, to other European countries. The plan, however, was met with strong opposition from some members, including Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.