Italy and Slovenia have begun a joint patrol service along the 200 kilometers of shared border between the two nations in an attempt to stem the flow of illegal arrivals into Italy.
The checks began Monday morning from the former border crossing of Lipizza, in the Slovenian municipality of Sesana, with agents of the Italian and Slovenian Border Police riding together in the same patrol vehicles.
The new mixed patrols reflect provisions of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Rome and Ljubljana on cross-border cooperation, recently signed by the respective chiefs of immigration and borders of the two governments.
The MOU “is based on positive experience from similar forms of cross-border cooperation already started by the Department for Public Security and with the police of other bordering countries such as Austria, Switzerland, and France,” said a statement from Italy’s interior ministry.
The agreement, statement continued, “will make it possible to step up activities against irregular migration along the ‘Balkan route,’ which for some time has been seeing a resumption of migration flows that — through Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia — arrive in Friuli Venezia Giulia.”
Last week, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini floated the possibility of building a wall along the Slovenian border to halt illegal immigration from the Balkans.
A similar project enacted by Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán reduced illegal migrant numbers by a remarkable 99 percent after that country saw increased activity on the Balkan migrant route.
“The Balkan route has reopened,” said Mr. Salvini, whose Lega party soared in the recent European Parliament elections, thanks in large part to its tough stance against illegal immigration.
“If the migrant flow does not stop we don’t rule out physical barriers on the frontier as an extreme remedy,” he said.
Mr. Salvini had already set up much tougher controls along the eastern border near the city of Trieste with support from the governor of Friuli, Massimiliano Fedriga, also of the Lega party.
As a result, as of January Italian police were able to catch nearly 1,500 illegal immigrants trying to cross into Italy via the old Balkan route.