Austria is the latest European state to announce a physical barrier to the influx of refugees into its borders.
Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said Friday that the planned 3.7 km (2.3 mile) fence is a temporary measure aimed at “channeling” the flow of people into entry points at the border with Slovenia. The fence is expected to be finished in less than six weeks. Barbed wire will be stored “nearby” to use if necessary, said Josef Ostermayer, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann’s
chief of staff.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar has said the government lacks the ability to shelter large numbers of refugees over the winter if they are prevented from crossing into Austria.
The Slovenian army began building its own razor wire fence Wednesday in Veliki Obrez at the southeastern border with Croatia. Slovenia had warned previously that it could resort to the measure if the European Union did not address the ongoing refugee crisis.
In a news conference, Bostjan Sefic, state secretary with the Ministry of the Interior, said the fence is not intended to prevent people from entering the country but to establish controlled entry points.
Nearly 10,000 people arrived in Slovenia on Tuesday and Wednesday, police said. More than 175 police officers from Germany and other states are helping to patrol the border after Slovenia requested EU assistance last month.
The border measures are stirring fears that the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free movement between EU states, is under threat. Austria’s planned fence will be the first between two states within the Schengen bloc.
“Saving Schengen is a race against time,” European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday, a day before the European Commission gave Germany and Sweden permission to extend border checks. Schengen allows for temporary border controls for security purposes.