KRMACINA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenia's army on Friday started removing a razor wire fence on the border with Croatia that was put up to curb migrant crossings after more than 1 million people fleeing violence or poverty entered Europe in 2015.
About a dozen soldiers used cutters to help unclog the wire that had got entangled in bushes and other greenery along the border, before loading the rolls into a truck. Officials have said that it could take around five months before the nearly 200-kilometer (around 120-mile) border fence — a combination of razor wire and metal panels — is taken down.
The decision to scrap the fence was taken by Slovenia's new, liberal government, which took office after an election in April. Officials have said that the border will be monitored by other means, but that it is necessary to prevent any accidents and injuries migrants might face as they seek to reach Western Europe.
“Migrations have not and will not disappear, but this wire was a disproportionate measure," said Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar, who was present at the site. “Time has shown that no fence can prevent migration, but has caused many tragedies and people were dying” while trying to cross the Kolpa, or Kupa, river on the border.
Senior police official Bostjan added that “the removed wire will be replaced by changing work methods and tactics,” including additional border staff and enhanced international cooperation.
Migrants from the Middle East, Africa or Asia come into Slovenia from Croatia via the so-called Balkan route. Many face perils on their long journeys that often take months, even years of dangerous crossings of seas or rivers, abuse by people smugglers or sleeping rough in cold weather and heat.
The Slovenian government's decision to remove the fence has faced criticism from right-wing parties that are staunchly opposed to migration. The European Union nation has reported an increase in migrant crossings in the first half of 2022 compared with the previous year, and rightist groups say the wire removal is premature.
Interior Minister Bobnar previously has described the border fence as a temporary measure and said that “it is inadmissible for it to become a permanent element of Slovenia’s border policy.”
The official STA news agency reported that the army will first remove 51 kilometers (30 miles) of the razor wire while the remaining 143 kilometers (90 miles) of the fence will be taken down by a contractor that is yet to be selected.
Migrants trying to cross borders while seeking security and better lives in the West often also face violent pushbacks by border police in many countries along their routes.
Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
Darko Bandic, The Associated Press