Austria reinforces army presence on Italian border

Austria is building up a stronger police and military presence on it borders in an attempt to reduce the number of asylum seekers trying to enter via Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary

18 August 2017, 8:09am
The interior minister has deployed 900 soldiers, and checks will increase on goods lorries, foreign coaches, and border backroads
The interior minister has deployed 900 soldiers, and checks will increase on goods lorries, foreign coaches, and border backroads
Austrian officials said 70 soldiers are being sent to the border with Italy to help police stop the entry of illegal migrants over Austria's southwestern flank.

The officials said that the deployment, which will reinforce local police officer who currently oversee the frontier, is to crack down on human trafficking. The interior minister has deployed 900 soldiers, and checks will increase on goods lorries, foreign coaches, and border backroads.

Senior police official Helmut Tomac and Herbert Bauer of the Austrian army said the move is in response to increased instances of migrants trying to hitch rides over the border under the carriages of freight wagons.

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

Austrian border controls are a sensitive issue in Rome. The Brenner Pass connecting the two countries is one of the principal routes connecting Italy with northern Europe and is particularly heavily used during the summer vacation season.

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”.