Austria to extend border controls with Hungary, Slovenia again

Austria to extend border controls with Hungary, Slovenia again

'High migration pressure' makes it necessary to extend border controls, Austrian interior minister tells local media

By Timo Kirez

GENEVA (AA) — Austria's interior minister said on Tuesday that he plans to apply to the EU Commission to extend border controls with Hungary and Slovenia for another six months.

The country wants to continue the controls due to the "high migration pressure" last year, Gerhard Karner of the conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) told local radio station O1.

Karner argued that migration numbers were decreasing as a "result of these controls," adding that while maintaining the controls would have a financial cost, the measure was "about security."

"As long as the EU's external border protection doesn't work, we have to invest money," he said.

On allegations of illegal border pushbacks by Croatian police, Karner said these "of course have to be examined." But, he also noted that the reports showed "how difficult it is to secure these borders."

On whether Croatia was being "rewarded" for illegal activity with its Schengen accession, which Austria agreed to while preventing Bulgaria and Romania from joining, Karner said "this is not about rewards, it's about having a system that works, that the external border protection works. Therefore, external border control is necessary."

Croatian police and officials allegedly used messaging service WhatsApp to share sensitive information about migrants trying to enter the country, according to independent news outlet Lighthouse Reports.

The news outlet said last Thursday that it had obtained 60 leaked screenshots and identified 33 participants in an encrypted chat group used in August 2019-February 2020.

"Croatia has always denied knowing about violent and illegal operations by its own police to push back asylum seekers from the EU. Now we can reveal that senior Croatian officials were part of a secret WhatsApp group where such activities were shared and promoted," Lighthouse reported.

Austria first introduced controls at its Schengen internal borders with Slovenia and Hungary at the height of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015 and has continued to extend and expand them ever since.

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