Austria deploys armed tanks to prevent flux of migrants crossing border

Edited by walterp on . Posted in Main

Officials confirmed the vehicles had been sent to the province that includes the Brenner Pass, a gateway to Italy for important trading partners such as Germany.

Italy warned last year that planned controls on a key trade pass would break EU rules on free movement.

Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said he expecting controls at the border with Italy to be introduced “very soon”, a comment which sparked fury in Rome.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern played down the dispute and praised cooperation with Italy, which is dealing with a surged in the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, many of them fleeing war and poverty in their home countries.

Speaking during a joint press conference, Kern told reporters Austria is preparing to introduce border controls at Brenner if there is a surge in migrant arrivals there, but that there was no need to at present.

“We are not deploying tanks at Brenner and I can emphasise again that cooperation with Italy is really good,” he said, adding there was no indication the Italian government had lost control of the situation in the south of the country.

More than 85,000 refugees and other migrants have arrived in Italy by that route so far this year, making it the main point of entry into Europe.

Italy has repeatedly appealed to other European countries for help in dealing with the influx of people making the perilously journey of crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.

This comes as Amnesty International warned that the EU’s “reckless” operations in the Mediterranean was causing refugees to die as they attempt the sea crossing in unsafe boats.

The report claims EU naval operations destroyed many human smugglers’ wooden boats, pushing people to make the crossing in less safe rubber dinghies instead.

Austria has said for more than a year that it will introduce border controls at Brenner if it needed to prevent another wave of arrivals.

In 2015, Austria took more than one per cent of its population in asylum seekers, who came mainly through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.

Far-right gains support

The wave of migrants coming through Austria in 2015 lifted support for the far-right Freedom Party.

A parliamentary election is due in October and immigration is likely to remain a major issue, with all three leading parties in favour of border security.

In a statement, Kern and Doskozil said: “We must prepare for a possible worsening of the situation (in Italy). One thing is clear: there cannot be a repeat of a situation like the one in 2015.”

 

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