Czechia renews border controls with Slovakia as irregular migration reaches "critical point"

Czechia reinstated border controls with Slovakia for a period of ten days as of midnight Wednesday. The government ordered the move in connection with a sharp increase in irregular migration in recent weeks.

In the course of the past four months police have apprehended almost 9 500 irregular migrants on Czech territory, mostly people of Syrian origin who are using Czechia as a transit route on their way to Western Europe. Compared to last year’s 1,330 irregular migrants, this year their number has already reached 11,000 and is growing steadily week-by-week. Interior Minister Vit Rakušan said the situation had reached a critical point and called for action.

“The wave of illegal migration we are now experiencing is unprecedented. Year-on-year illegal migration has increased by an unbelievable 1,200 percent. In recent days the situation in the South Moravian and Zlin regions had reached a critical point.”

Five hundred police officers and 60 customs officers are now deployed along the 250 km Czech-Slovak border and people can only cross at 27 official crossing points. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said the measure is an attempt to discourage irregular migrants from using this route.

The interior minister said the Czech authorities had exhausted all other possibilities to deal with the situation at present. He said he had held several talks with his Slovak counterpart and demanded that the Slovak side comply with international treaties and its readmission agreement with the Czech Republic, but had failed to get the response he expected.

Mr. Rakušan said he had informed the interior ministers of Slovakia, Germany, Austria and Poland about the renewed checks during a recent meeting and as well as informing the European Commissioner for Internal Security, Ylva Johansson. He said that as the country holding the EU Presidency Czechia wanted to start talks on what can be done about the growing problem.

The minister said the Czech government was introducing the controls for just ten days in order to adhere to the conditions of the Schengen border codex after which it would evaluate the situation. "The codex defines exactly under what conditions and when a member state can close its internal borders within the Schengen area, and we have to respect that" he explained.

Austria, which is also struggling to deal with a growing number of irregular migrants also renewed controls on the Slovak border as of Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Slovak prime minister, Eduard Heger, on Wednesday defended Slovakia’s position arguing that his country is part of Schengen and that it is absurd to expect it to protect its borders with other Schengen member states. He said the matter needed to be discussed at EU level since renewing controls on inner Schengen borders goes against the principles of the Schengen Agreement.

SOURCE: Radio Prague


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