With Terrorism on the Rise, Austria Constructs a Border Wall
The UK’s Daily Express reports that the Austrian government is now planning to construct a 62-mile fence along its border with Hungary to keep out Islamic migrants. The nation has already signed agreements with property owners adjacent to the border.
Austria’s interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner has argued that it is necessary to turn Europe into a “fortress” to stop any more refugees from coming in. The problem has become so bad in Austria that a far-right candidate almost won the presidential election this spring.
The Bishop of Eisenstadt Ägidius Zsifkovics has refused to give permission to build a fence on church property, citing humanitarian grounds, so there will be some gaps. Additionally, the plan is to only erect the fence in highly trafficked areas, not in the mountainous regions where migrants do not normally venture.
A small 2.3-mile fence has already been built along Austria’s border with Slovenia, but the government has had difficulty extending it because of objections from property owners concerned about damaging their relationship with neighbors in Slovenia. Austria has already had a feud with Italy in April over plans to erect a fence along their mutual border.
Heightening concerns is ISIS’s successful recent efforts to sneak operatives into European countries disguised as refugees, and attack citizens.
According to the Hungarian news agency MTI, currently about 30 to 40 refugees cross from Hungary into Austria every day. Compounding the problem is that Hungary refuses to take back the refugees from Austria. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last month that the migration of the refugees to Europe is a “poison” and that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.”
Orban has already constructed a fence on Hungary’s southern borders and is forcibly returning refugees found between the country and Serbia. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern says he will send police officers to assist Hungary to help guard Hungary’s border with Serbia. Since the Hungarian fence was erected, about 1,400 refugees have camped out next to it.
Previously, Austria had put a cap on the number of refugees claiming asylum. The government has agreed to allow only 37,500 migrants in 2016. In 2015, the nation accepted 90,000. A law was passed recently allowing the government to immediately shut down the border entirely if the numbers of refugees spike, and Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka says he would do that even before the 37,500 cap is reached. So far this year, 22,000 refugees have entered the country.
According to The Daily Express, “Austria is on the Balkan migration route to the ‘promised lands’ of Germany and Sweden, where most asylum seekers arriving in Europe want to settle and start a better life.” NBC News reports that Germany took in a record 2.1 million immigrants last year, equivalent to the population of Houston, Texas. At the same time, the percentage of people leaving the country has increased by nine percent.
The UK recently voted to leave the European Union. Reportedly many voters were motivated to support the exit vote because of the flood of refugees able to enter the country due to the EU’s open borders policy.