Twenty six years ago the Berlin wall came down, symbolically allowing access into a free Europe for those trapped behind the iron curtain. Today, Austria became the latest European country to build a fence to slow down the flood of refugees from the middle east and Africa into Europe.
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner says the fence will be built along its border with fellow European Union member Slovenia. Both countries are part of the passport-free Schengen zone and have become key transit countries for thousands of refugees seeking to reach northern Europe via the Balkans.
“This is about ensuring an orderly, controlled entry into our country, not about shutting down the border,” Mikl-Leitner says.
She added the refugee crisis will escalate as people are forced to wait in freezing temperatures for hours before being allowed to cross from one nation into another.
“We know that in recent days and weeks individual groups of migrants have become more impatient, aggressive and emotional. If groups of people push from behind, with children and women stuck in-between, you need stable, massive measures,” she says.
On Tuesday, the minister had hinted at the construction of the barrier, saying that she was considering “structural measures” to deal with the situation. Last week she attracted strong criticism from opposition members for saying that it was time for the EU to “build fortress Europe.”
Yesterday Slovenia also hinted that it was considering fences on its border with Croatia, while Hungary already has fences in place along its border with Serbia as a way of controlling the tide of refugees. The Hungarian barrier routed the refugee flood from Hungary to Slovenia into Europe to the west Balkans.
Official figures show that so far this year, 700,000 people fleeing war and misery in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, have reached Europe’s Mediterranean shores. Once in Greece, they begin their journey through the western Balkans and central Europe into Northern Europe with Germany, once the home to the Berlin Wall, being their preferred destination.