|Tens of thousands of migrants have poured into |
Slovenia in the past 10 days. Reuters
Austria on Wednesday said it plans to build a fence at its main crossing with Slovenia, the first such barrier between two members of Europe’s document-free travel area, in one of the clearest signs to date of how Europe’s migrant crisis is undermining Europe’s institutions and sowing discord across the bloc.
Children climbed on a temporary fence as migrants lined
up to cross the border from Sentilj, Slovenia, into
Austria on Wednesday. Reuters
News of the plan, aimed to slow the stream of migrants headed toward Germany via Austria, drew sharp criticism from Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to preserve freedom of travel across the continent, even as she struggles to maintain her own open-door refugee policy in the face of mounting opposition at home and growing impatience in other European countries on the migrants’ route.
“The federal government and the chancellor repeatedly have stressed that we believe that the refugee crisis can’t be solved with the building of fences,” Ms. Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday.
Yet in a sign of mounting domestic pressure on the German government amid sliding opinion polls for the chancellor and her party, German officials also lashed out at Austria for waving migrants through toward Germany and hinted at a tougher line toward newcomers with poor chances of obtaining asylum.
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While Austrian officials described the planned barrier as modest and meant to help control rather than stop the flow, Germany and top European Union officials say fences will only exacerbate the problem and compromise cherished travel freedoms across Europe’s 26-member Schengen zone.
Keeping borderless travel in place in the area, which includes Germany, Austria and Slovenia, is essential to both Ms. Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. But the speed at which the crisis has unfolded, disagreements over how to tackle it, and Europe’s difficulty in finding a joint response have raised incentives for countries to go it alone.
The leaders of 11 nations along the main migrant route into Europe have discussed a plan to slow the influx by creating shelters to accommodate up to 100,000 people on the move. But it is already facing obstacles amid misgivings in Greece about providing housing for almost half of these people. Greece‘s institutions have been weakened by years of deep economic crisis, but it is on the front line of the crisis and its failure to comply would undermine the entire effort.
|Hungarian police officers|
Austria has been overwhelmed by rising numbers of migrants streaming through tiny Slovenia since Hungary, once a key transit spot on the route, built razor-wire fences on its southern borders, first with Serbia and, earlier this month, with Croatia. In turn, officials in southern Germany have complained about the growing and increasingly chaotic flows making their way from Austria.Read rhe rest of the story HERE.
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