Arab Times

Slovenia erects fence along border

14 migrants die as boat sinks off Turkey


VELIKI OBREZ/GIBINA, Slovenia, Nov 11, (Agencies): Slovenia started erecting a razor wire fence along parts of its border with Croatia amid heavy security on Wednesday, saying it wanted better control over the surge of migrants passing through as they make their way across Europe.

Around 180,000 people, many fleeing war in Syria and Afghanista­n, have entered Slovenia since mid October, most of them heading north to Austria and then Germany.

Europe is facing a record influx of migrants and is deeply divided on how to act. European Union leaders are due to meet in Malta for a special migration summit later on Wednesday to try to iron out their difference­s.

Army trucks carrying wire fencing arrived in the border village of Veliki Obrez in southeaste­rn Slovenia early on Wednesday. By 1130 GMT, about 2 km (1.2 miles) of wire had been erected, a Reuters photograph­er there said.

The main point of disagreeme­nt in the EU is over mandatory national quotas to share out asylum seekers among the 28 member states. Hungary, which already closed its border to migrants in October, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia deeply oppose the quotas.

Concerns Slovenia is facing more immediate and pressing logistical concerns. Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Tuesday that the country, the smallest on the migrant route, does not have the resources to shelter large numbers over the harsh winter if Austria shut its border.

Slovenia’s border with Croatia will remain open, Cerar said, but the fence will prevent migrants to come into the country outside the border crossing.

Slovenian soldiers also erected another 100 metres of wire fencing on an open field near the border village of Gibina in eastern Slovenia, a Reuters cameraman there said.

No migrants were present at either of the two places, but large numbers of soldiers and police were at both scenes, some guarding constructi­on equipment.

Croatia on Wednesday said Slovenia’s move was unnecessar­y and a waste of money.

“It would be better if they built a reception centres, similarly to what we did,” Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters. “No wire can stop people to find their way and it is better to make their way organised.”

Germany may have to spend over 14 billion euros ($15 billion) next year to manage its record refugee influx, an

expert panel said Wednesday, calling the cost for the EU’s top economy “manageable”.

The economists urged Berlin to speed up the processing of asylum requests and to quickly integrate refugees in the labour market as Germany braces for up to one million arrivals this year.

“The influx of refugees has shown that Germany is not immune to global problems,” said the German Council of Economic Experts in its annual report to the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Dubbed the five “wise men”, although they include one woman, the panel estimated additional public spending of 5.9 to 8.3 billion billion euros this year and of 9.0 to 14.3 billion euros in 2016 related to the inflow of migrants.

Meanwhile, at least 14 migrants, including seven children, drowned on Wednesday when their flimsy boat sank off Turkey’s Aegean coast while trying to reach Greece, the latest fatalities in Europe’s refugee crisis.

The Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies from the wooden boat which was heading from the western province of Canakkale to the Greek island of Lesbos, the Dogan news agency said.

“This morning another 14 refugees died ... Must there be another Aylan for the world to wake up. Humanity is watching from the sidelines,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He was referring to three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose body was pictured washed up on a Turkish beach in September in harrowing images that shocked the world, pressuring European leaders to step up their response to the crisis.

Dogan reported that 27 people were rescued in the Aegean on Wednesday, among them a pregnant woman, and the survivors were said to be in good condition.

Coastguard workers backed by helicopter­s were continuing a search for those unaccounte­d for, Dogan said, without specifying how many might be missing.

“The boat probably sank after hitting rocks. It was severely damaged and apparently started to take in water but they decided to go ahead anyway,” Canakkale governor Hamza Erkal told Anatolia news agency.

“They apparently turned back after the boat took in more water but it sank before reaching the shore.”

There was no immediate informa-

tion on the nationalit­ies of those on board. Leaders of the European Union meet African counterpar­ts on Malta on Wednesday, hoping pledges of cash and other aid can slow the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterran­ean from the world’s poorest continent to wealthy Europe.

The summit among the 16th-century fortificat­ions at Valletta was conceived six months ago after the sinking of a boat making from Libya with the loss of over 800 lives forced embarrasse­d EU government­s to abandon a hope that the sea would be their moat against human desperatio­n and to step up naval rescue missions.

That initially brought a surge in arrivals, mainly in Italy as well as Malta, the EU’s smallest state. But numbers tailed off and Europe is gripped by new concerns further east: this year an unpreceden­ted half a million, war refugees from Syria and economic migrants, have reached Greek islands from Turkey.

That has left the Valletta meeting to focus on longer term problems — such as helping Africa create jobs or face global warming that is enlarging the desert — and on deals to send home hundreds of thousands of Africans already in Europe.

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