Slovenia’s parliament amended its laws yesterday (26 January) to enable police to seal the country’s borders to most illegal migrants for a limited period in case of a new influx along the so-called Balkan route, sparking condemnation from rights groups.
The amendments were passed by 47 votes to 18 although several humanitarian organisations said they might amount to a violation of human rights.
“Slovenia cannot wait until public order and internal security is in danger,” Interior Minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar told parliament before the vote.
“If the European Union will not find a sustainable and effective solution (to the migration problem), Slovenia has a legitimate right and obligation to use decrees that are necessary to protect its interests,” she added.
Amnesty International said earlier in the day that the new law “is a serious backward step for human rights in Slovenia”.
The Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, called upon parliament last week to reject the amendments, saying states should ensure that migrants arriving at their borders have access to a procedure enabling them to put forward reasons not to be refused entry.
But Slovenia claims it has to prevent a repeat of a six-month-influx of migrants that ended in March 2016, when several countries to its south closed the main Balkan migrant route.
In that period Slovenia, the smallest state along the migration corridor, saw almost 500,000 illegal migrants crossing the country on their way to wealthier west European countries.
Centre-left Prime Minister Miro Cerar had said Slovenia would not be able to endure another large influx of migrants, particularly since its northern neighbour Austria and other west European states were closing their doors to migrants.
In what has proved to be a busy week for Ljubljana’s lawmakers, politicians also voted against a measure that would have seen Slovenia become one of the few EU member states to allow local communities to sack their mayors before their term in office ends.
Lawmakers rejected the controversial bill in a second round of voting late on Wednesday (25 January).
The proposal had initially been approved in December but was sent back to parliament for a re-vote by the National Council.
The advisory body can neither pass nor reject bills but has the power to demand a new ballot on the same decree.
The council said the proposal would “threaten the stability of local communities” and risked sparking power battles between individuals.
At present only a few members states have laws allowing mayors to be removed including Germany and Poland, where an effort to oust Warsaw’s mayor failed in 2013 due to low turnout in a referendum.