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At A Time When Migration Is On The Rise, The Demolition Of The Fence At The Border Has Begun

The company that erected the fence at the border with Croatia has now started to tear it down. Meanwhile, illegal migration is rising sharply. In addition, the state did not choose the lowest bidder in the tender to remove the panel fence, and the wire fence is being torn down by the Slovenian Army.

Last month, the demolition of the panel fence at the border with Croatia that restricted the entry of illegal migrants began. Illegal migration is a significant problem, although the authorities claim to have the situation under control. Nevertheless, they have recorded a large number of irregular migrants entering our country in 2023. The Golob government started its mandate with a more migrant-friendly policy towards migrants and asylum seekers – at a time when migration is on the rise again. The current government’s migrant policy is supposed to focus on the “human rights” of migrants and on more efficient asylum policies or faster processing of asylum applications. Migrant NGOs are also involved in such decisions and are supposedly there to help shape migration policy by providing “advice.” However, unwise decisions in this area could lead to Slovenia becoming a migrant pocket, as our neighbouring countries seem to be taking this issue much more seriously.

Is the fence really useless?

As we have already reported, one of the first decisions taken by the Golob left-liberal government when it took over the affairs of the state was to remove the fence at the southern border, which had been erected at the height of the migrant crisis. Theirs was a purely ideological decision, based on a human rights ideology that represents a new extreme, placing the rights of the individual above all others. Thus, even if someone breaks the law by entering a country illegally, their rights have become a greater concern than the rights of the citizens of that country to security and, in some cases, even the law. The first part of the removal of the fence took place last July when the army began to remove the wire fence on the border with Croatia. The first metres of the wire fence were removed at the Krmačina border crossing near Metlika. It is worth noting that this is an area where the police have been heavily burdened this year by illegal migrants and people smuggling. At the time of the decision being made, the then-Minister of the Interior, Tatjana Bobnar, stated that the fence was useless in preventing migration and that the barbed wire was causing tragedies, as some people had died in and along the Kolpa River trying to avoid it. Were these illegal migrants who tried to get into the country and failed because of the fence? Despite the tragic end that some of them met in the Kolpa River, this would actually mean the opposite of what Bobnar said, namely, that the fence is therefore working.

The fence is being torn down by the company that erected it

The fence is allegedly being torn down by the Minis company from Žalec, which erected it in 2015, during the government of Miro Cerar. The company won the tender, even though their offer was three times more expensive than that of the lowest bidder. As a result, the removal of the fence that protected our country from illegal migrants, which the current government considers “inhumane”, is expected to cost Slovenian taxpayers 7 million euros, and the implementation itself is expected to take several years. The company Minis received 9.94 million euros from the Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Commodity Reserves for the installation of the fence. The Ministry of the Interior launched a public tender for the demolition of the fence last November, and four other bidders besides Minis applied for the contract. The lowest bidder was Franc Mačerol, an independent entrepreneur and builder from Žužemberk, but he was not selected because he did not provide a financial guarantee worth 100,000 euros to ensure the seriousness of his bid, which led to the government choosing a much more expensive bid.

The start of demolition of the panel fence

Although new complications seemed to appear at first, the Ministry of the Interior eventually signed a contract with Minis, which started demolishing the panel fence in May this year. The start of the works, which took place in the area of the former border crossing points Jelšane and Osilnica, was visited by Defence Minister Marjan Šarec and Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar. According to the latter, the fence is no longer needed because the burden of defending the Schengen border will now be shifted to neighbouring Croatia. Nevertheless, statistics show that Slovenia is far from having become immune to illegal migration overnight. As already mentioned, Slovenia was so far protected by a wire fence in addition to the panel fence, the removal of which began last year by the Slovenian Armed Forces.

So far, 136 kilometres of barbed wire have been removed, and the last ten kilometres are expected to be taken down in the next three months. The wire fencing was installed mainly in the areas of Črnomelj, Jelšane, Dragonja and Ilirska Bistrica. When the demolition of the panel fence started, the Interior Minister said that it would be completely removed in less than two years. He said that Slovenia was successfully managing illegal migration and that the police were cooperating with the police forces of the Western Balkan countries.

Illegal migration is rising sharply

But even though the Golob government is convinced that the fence is unnecessary and even harmful, the statistics say otherwise. Namely, 11,632 illegal border crossings were recorded by the end of April this year, compared to “only” 3,648 that happened last year. Of these, the highest number of cases in both years was at the southern border with Croatia – 3,053 last year and 10,973 this year. In both cases, the majority of irregular migrants were Afghans. Of these, 65.4 percent were dealt with by police officers of the Novo mesto Police Directorate and 25.4 percent by police officers from Koper. The Balkan migrant route is still used very frequently and has reportedly become a popular route for smugglers. Also, by the end of April, 10,992 people had expressed their intention to apply for international protection this year, compared to 2,738 in 2022. Of course, the illegals mainly do this to protect themselves from immediate deportation, even when they have no real intention of applying or are not even entitled to do so. However, despite the worrying increase in illegal migration, only 126 foreigners were returned to foreign security authorities during the period in question this year, compared to 615 last year. According to some unofficial claims, migrants on the Balkan route also learned that Slovenia had a change of government last year, making the changes in our migration policy favourable to them.

In addition to Afghans, there have also been lots of Cubans, Russians and Moroccans

Illegal migration has been on the rise since the middle of last year. Given the current situation and the inefficiency of our government, it seems that nothing good is in store for the future. Comparisons show that the Golob government refuses to tackle this problem radically and is in favour of migrants and a major demographic change. Apart from Afghans, the most frequent illegal migrants have been Moroccans, Russian citizens, and Cubans. While in the case of Russia, these are often people who want to avoid being drafted into war, in other countries, there is no war at this time, but rather these are all economic migrants. Asylum centres in Slovenia have been overcrowded for a long time. When the tearing down of the fence was first announced, this was also supported by claims that it was bad for tourism. Perhaps tourists will like it better if, in the future, when they visit our country, they can observe groups of migrants wandering around the border instead of the fence along the border – which is already happening now.

Andrej Sekulović

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