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Removal of the wire fence signifies a new direction in Slovenia’s migration policy

The new migration policy being prepared by the Ministry places greater emphasis on respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the values that every democratic society should uphold – a humane attitude towards every individual and the provision of the assistance they need.

Countries need to adapt their policies and measures to the current situation in the local and global environment. It is very important that these measures are proportionate and attuned to the security situation. They must ensure the safety of people while respecting fundamental human rights, which is an important starting point for democratic policies on migration and asylum in the modern global world.

The fence on the Slovenian-Croatian border was erected at the time of mass migration as a temporary instrument to channel migratory flows and as such is a remnant of crisis migration management

Police statistics on irregular border crossings clearly show that the number of irregular crossings is decreasing year by year. For instance, there were more than 16,000 irregular crossings in 2019, more than 14,000 in 2020 and over 10,000 in 2021. It is true that the number of irregular border crossings has increased this year (compared to the same period last year, when there were over 3,000 crossings), but this is not unusual for this time of the year. The key point to note is that this is a migratory trend in the wider region of which we are a part.

Last Friday, the government took note of the plan to remove the border fence. The decision to start removing the fence was based on a risk assessment, public opinion, the commitments made and, above all, the wishes of the people living along the border. For the last seven years, people along the border have been living with the fence. It is only right that the state respects their wishes and calls for the earliest possible removal. The Ministry has received numerous petitions from mayors and individuals from local communities calling for a return to normal life without physical barriers between the close-knit local populations on both sides of the border. The Ministry wants to listen to them and hear from them, so a meeting has been scheduled for next week, where an indicative plan for the future removal of the fence will be presented.

The removal will be gradual, starting with the border wire, which constitutes a major intrusion into the environment and people's lives. The next to go will be the panel fence, and in its removal, the wishes of the local population will be taken into account as far as possible. The removal of the panel fence will be carried out by a qualified contractor selected in a public procurement procedure. Some local communities have already sent requests to the Ministry to take possession of the fence. In this respect, the Ministry will seek appropriate solutions within the framework of the existing legislation and the provisions of the physical assets act.

Following the removal of the fence, the police will continue to protect the state border by adapting its activities and involving various police units and technical means. This will ensure an adequate level of security for the local population as well as the population in the interior of the country and the European Union. Fences cannot stop migration, which is a fact borne out by the statistics on the number of irregular crossings of the state border. Therefore, the scaremongering by some political representatives about a major deterioration in the security situation in the country, which the removal of some 10 km of wire on the 670 km long border with Croatia is supposed to cause, is both populist and unfounded.

The removal of the wire also signifies a new direction in the migration policy in Slovenia. This government wants to eliminate from public discourse the instigation of fear of foreigners, who are frequently regarded as an excessive "threat" in society and too rarely as, for example, potential future workers in shortage occupations. The statistics on criminal and minor offences committed do not support the notion that foreigners are more frequent offenders than the Slovenian population. It is necessary to face up to the fact that migration is a commonplace phenomenon, especially in today's globalised world. It is part of our reality, a constant. However, it is by no means a crisis in itself. A policy of scaremongering and non-acceptance of diversity must no longer be an acceptable practice.

The most effective migration policy is to ensure legal and thus safe and orderly migration. This in turn reduces the interest in seeking routes through criminal smuggling organisations that profit from people's plight. The Ministry's approach follows the principle of minimising risks for all - for the citizens of Slovenia, for local residents and for the people on migratory routes.