Austria ‘to build Italy border fence’

A sign reading Brenner - Brennero is pictured at Brenner on the Italian-Austrian border, Austria, April 12, 2016.Image copyright

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Austria is planning border controls at the Brenner crossing

Austria may build a border fence at a crossing with Italy, a provincial police chief has said.

The 400m fence would be located at the Brenner crossing in Tyrol, the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper reported.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said closing the Brenner pass would go “shamelessly” against European law as well the continent’s past and future.

The suggestion comes days after Austria’s far right came top in the first round of a presidential election,

Tirolean police chief Helmut Tomac told a news conference that the proposed border fence would depend on Italy’s willingness to co-operate.

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Austria has already started work at the crossing to enable controls to be implemented if the numbers of migrants arriving there increase.

Measures would include searches of trucks and private cars travelling on the main highway and checks on trains.

The country’s parliament is also due to vote on adopting tough asylum laws that would let the government declare a “state of emergency” over the migrant crisis and reject most asylum-seekers, including those from war-torn countries such as Syria, directly at the border.

Rights group Amnesty said the law would “undermine the very principle of protection from war and persecution”.

“These amendments are a glaring attempt to keep people out of Austria and its asylum system,” said Amnesty Europe director Gauri van Gulik.

But Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said Austria had no other choice as long as “so many other EU members fail to do their part” to limit the influx of migrants and refugees.

“We cannot shoulder the whole world’s burden,” he said.

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The plans to reintroduce border controls have been met with protests

Austria received 90,000 asylum requests in 2015, the second-highest figure in the EU on a per capita basis.

In February the country began limiting the number of asylum applications it would accept to 80 a day in a move that the European migration commissioner described as “plainly incompatible” with EU law.

Austria has also encouraged Balkan countries to shut their southern borders to prevent migrants travelling along the so-called “Balkan route” from Greece to northern Europe.


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