Austria, a strong critic of the building of fences to keep out refugees, has announced plans to erect barriers along parts of its own border, but has insisted the move is meant solely to bring order into the flow of people entering the country.
Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told parliament on Wednesday that construction of “technical barriers” would begin after about 10 days of planning, but gave no exact date for the start of work on the project.
In separate comments to state broadcaster ORF, she spoke of the need for a “fence” to maintain public order.
Defence Minister Gerald Klug said containers or railings could be set up to “be able to control the refugees in an orderly way”.
Mikl-Leitner insisted that there were no plans “to build a fence around Austria”.
Still, the project is likely to run into domestic and international criticism for the signal it sends to other nations struggling to cope with the refugee influx and because of associations with the razor-wire fence Hungary has built to keep refugees out – a move Austria strongly criticised.
Since the Hungarians sealed their borders a few weeks ago, thousands of refugees using the western Balkans route into Austria and beyond have been flowing into Croatia and then Slovenia daily.
Slovenia, the main refugee entry point into Austria, also said it was ready to build a fence, threatening to set off a chain reaction from other countries along the land route used by those seeking a better life in prosperous EU nations.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Wednesday that “if necessary, we are ready to put up the fence immediately,” if a weekend plan by EU and Balkan leaders fails to stem the refugee surge.
Germany, the country of choice of many of the people fleeing regions torn by war and hardship, moved as well to reduce the refugee load.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced that, while Syrian citizens will mostly be accepted, many of the Afghans pouring into the country will likely be sent back to their homeland.