Slovenian police apprehended several large groups of migrants at the border and inland over the weekend and arrested several smugglers, as migration pressure intensified before the typical winter lull.
In Ilirska Bistrica area in south-western Slovenia police apprehended a total of 144 migrants in several stings on Sunday, a number typically recorded in the region in a week. The majority were citizens of Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Koper police said.
In eastern Slovenia, near Ormož, police stopped a van with 22 migrants, more than half of them from Bangladesh. Two smugglers, a Moldovan and a Ukrainian citizen, were arrested.
A sting by the Financial Administration and police in Celje turned up a van with 34 migrants driven by a Belgian driver.
The smugglers face criminal charges, while procedures concerning migrants are ongoing. The majority will probably be returned to Croatia.
Commenting on the stings, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the press on Monday that the figures showed “the organised market for migrant smuggling is in full swing” and that police were doing a good job. Around 100 smugglers of migrants are currently in detention in Slovenia.
Hojs indicated the police may once again ask parliament to activate a special article of the defence act that gives soldiers limited police powers for patrolling the border. Previous such attempts were deflected by the opposition.
He also indicated Slovenia and Croatia are considering a new way of patrolling their shared border. Croatia has proposed mixed police patrols, while Slovenia suggested that both sides alternately step up patrols along different sections of the border in “a zipper system of sorts”.
Overall, he said cooperation with Slovenian law enforcement was good as Croatian police “unconditionally accept back everything we intercept”.