Home Focus The municipal council in Brežice unanimously against the migrant centre – including...

The municipal council in Brežice unanimously against the migrant centre – including the municipal councillors of Svoboda and Igor Zorčič!

(Photo: Municipality Brežice)

By: Gašper Blažič

The recent decision of Golob’s government to settle migrants in the area of the former Obrežje border crossing without consulting the local community has sparked significant resistance. Yesterday, the municipal council in Brežice held an extraordinary session, unanimously opposing the migrant centre.

Brežice municipal councillors, at an extraordinary session, unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the establishment of an asylum centre in Obrežje. They were not convinced by assurances that this is a temporary measure, and that security will be ensured. If the government continues its activities, they announce protests, civil disobedience, and the closure of the local international border crossing. The session received exceptional media attention, and some residents attended, carrying banners.

Even the Svoboda councillors voted against

Out of 30 municipal councillors, 28 voted for the resolution opposing the asylum centre in Obrežje. No one was against it, and even the municipal councillors of the Gibanje Svoboda party voted against the government’s resolution, led by their party leader Robert Golob. In the debate, councillors mainly pointed out their resentment towards the government for not informing them about its intention to establish an asylum centre in Obrežje. They only learned about it after the government had already made a decision on Thursday.

They oppose the asylum centre for several reasons. According to municipal councillor Aleksander Gajski (SDS), who demanded an extraordinary session on this topic, the asylum centre brings additional security risks to the municipality. In areas where asylum centres are established, crime increases, and people’s safety decreases. He finds it hard to believe the assurances of the police that security will be ensured, especially considering its understaffing.

Municipal councillors requested explanations from the Director of the Government Office for the Care and Integration of Migrants, Katarina Štrukelj, regarding why the government chose to establish an asylum centre in Obrežje. According to the director, they have been actively seeking capacities for accommodating asylum seekers for two years. The decision to accommodate them in Obrežje and Središče ob Dravi was made after careful consideration, taking into account migration trends and the proximity to settlements.

The asylum centre in Obrežje, according to her, would be located near the facilities that the police used for border control. They would be temporary structures, including residential containers and tents. The number of asylum seekers accommodated would depend on migration flows or the occupancy of the Asylum Home in Ljubljana and its branches in Kotnikova in Ljubljana and Logatec, which are currently about two-thirds occupied.

Police claim they know nothing about migrant crimes?!

As warned by the mayor of Brežice, Ivan Molan, a registration centre is already planned in Obrežje, which will be relocated from the Brežice Police Station. “This means that migrants will be registered in the registration centre, then moved a few meters away to the asylum centre. From there, they will move around the Brežice municipality without movement restrictions,” he said. He also pointed out that there are no shops, banks, or schools near the proposed location of the asylum centre, meaning migrants will visit Brežice, causing additional discomfort and fear among people.

The Director of the Novo Mesto Police Directorate, Igor Juršič, assured concerns about safety, stating that the police would do everything to ensure security, and local residents would feel the impact of migrations as little as possible. Bojan Tomc, the Head of the Department for State Borders and Foreigners at the Novo Mesto Police Directorate, added that they had not been informed about criminal acts by migrants so far.

However, these assurances did not convince municipal councillors. “We do not agree that no migrant causes crimes. What then is the illegal crossing of the state border?” said Stanko Tomše from the council group Korak naprej in sonce, otherwise the third-largest council group in the Brežice Municipal Council. He announced that their councillors, including former Speaker of the National Assembly Igor Zorčič, would vote against the establishment of the asylum centre.

Mojca Florjančič from the Gibanje Svoboda party also announced that they would vote against it. She stated that the decision to establish the asylum centre in Obrežje is not professional, nor is it coordinated with the local community, emphasising the need for more information. Councillors Slavko Bizjak and Fredi Žibert presented the opinion adopted at a joint session on Monday by members of the local communities Jesenice and Velika Dolina, where the asylum centre would be located. Bizjak, vice president of the Jesenice local community in Dolenjska, said that residents strongly oppose the establishment of the asylum centre and that, if the government does not consider their opinion, they will express civil disobedience “by closing international border crossings and staging protest rallies”. The president of the Velika Dolina local community, Žibert, added that it is an extreme but necessary measure.

What about the murdered policeman Damir?

Regardless, it is evident that, in this case, the Svoboda party councillors acted reasonably and did not submit to the dictates of the government coalition, even though they were caught between two fires. This is not the first time something like this has happened in Slovenia; years ago, prominent members of the SD in Ilirska Bistrica reacted similarly to migrations. The central office of the SD in Ljubljana retaliated with harassment and exclusion, and some even left the party on their own.

Now the question arises of how the largest government party will react to this action by its municipal councillors. Will they also be “excluded from the party”? Will the government possibly penalise the municipality of Brežice for “xenophobia”?

In any case, regarding the police assurances that there have been no reports of criminal acts by migrants, it is worth recalling that at the end of June 2016, in the Posavje region, a 30-year-old policeman named Damir Golobič was stabbed to death by a migrant with a knife. He was attacked just a few kilometres away from his home in the Brežice municipality. At the time, the media reported that he was attacked by a “22-year-old German with mental health issues”, but in reality, it was a Pakistani who had come to Germany five years earlier and applied for asylum.

At the end, we add the official statement for the public from the municipality of Brežice.

PUBLIC STATEMENT, March 5th, 2024: Municipal Councillors Unanimously Oppose the Government’s Decision to Establish a Temporary Asylum Centre at the Obrežje Border Crossing Area

At the extraordinary session of the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Brežice, council members unanimously adopted five resolutions opposing the government’s decision to establish a temporary asylum centre for migrants in the area of the Obrežje border crossing or within the municipality of Brežice. The local community was not informed about the government’s intention before the decision to place a temporary asylum centre was made.

The session, which was well-attended by residents of the local communities of Jesenice on the Dolenjska and Velika Dolina, was also attended by the Director of the Police Administration Novo mesto, Igor Juršič, the Head of the Department for State Border and Foreigners at the Police Administration Novo mesto, Bojan Tomc, and Marjan Štubljar from the Border Police Sector, responsible for the registration centre. The Director of the Government Office for the Care and Integration of Migrants, Katarina Štrukelj, also attended the session with her colleagues.

The President of the Council of the Local Community Velika Dolina, Fredi Žibert, and the Vice President of the Council of the Local Community Jesenice on Dolenjska, Slavko Bizjak, presented the positions and resolutions of yesterday’s extraordinary joint session of the Council of the Local Community Jesenice on Dolenjska and Velika Dolina, where they strongly oppose the Government’s decision. Among these, as a last resort, in case the government does not allow any opportunity for democratic dialogue and cooperation, they expressed the intention to, in accordance with the prescribed legislation, demonstrate civil disobedience by closing international border crossings and organising a protest rally.

The Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Brežice and municipal councillor Aleksander Gajski, on behalf of the initiators of today’s extraordinary session, the SDS councillor group, and individual councillors, presented the introductory arguments of strong opposition to the Government’s decision and expanded the original proposal with four draft resolutions, which were subsequently adopted.

After a lengthy discussion and constructive debate, the councillors unanimously adopted the proposed resolutions (28 votes IN FAVOUR, 1 vote ABSTAINED):

  1. The Municipal Council of the Municipality of Brežice opposes the Government’s decision to establish a temporary asylum centre for migrants in the area of the Obrežje border crossing or in the area of the Municipality of Brežice, which is not professionally justified and coordinated with the local community.
  2. The Municipal Council of the Municipality of Brežice strongly opposes the implementation of all migration-related activities without the cooperation of the Municipality of Brežice and the local community.
  3. The Municipal Council assesses that the area of the Municipality of Brežice is not suitable for the location of an asylum centre.
  4. The Municipal Council ties the issuance of all approvals related to the placement of new facilities, either for the needs of the asylum centre or the registration centre, to mandatory discussion and approval by the Municipal Council.
  5. The Municipal Council demands from the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to provide all information and projections from which it will be justified why we need the planned capacities for a registration centre and additional branches of the asylum centre in the area of the municipality, and how this will affect the safety and lives of the residents.

Mayor Ivan Molan stated at the end of the session: “In Brežice, a reception-registration centre is already planned at the international border crossing Obrežje with a capacity of up to 600 people per day. We cannot imagine how it would look in practice from a security point of view, with migrants in a closed area in the registration centre, and next to it an asylum centre, another space in the same area, where these same people could then move freely. We consider this unacceptable. The location is also unacceptable, as thousands of people and transports pass through the area of the international border crossing Obrežje daily. We believe that the decision of the Government is thoughtless and that it is looking for the easiest solutions because if they already have a registration centre, they should have an asylum centre as well. I hope that the Government will reconsider this and withdraw from the adopted resolution. If this does not happen, the citizens announce civil disobedience.”

Later in the session, the councillors unanimously adopted the resolution on the Decree on the municipal detailed spatial plan for the area of the Brežice Shopping Centre along Cesta svobode – east, part BRŽ-129 and BRŽ-130. Councillor Aljoša Rovan withdrew his submitted amendment at this point.

The entire session, which was followed by both local and national media, can be watched on the Nova24TV television programme.

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