Italian officials have summoned the ambassador of Austria to Rome to request clarification on Vienna’s plans for imposing stricter controls on the border with Italy, an apparent bid to curb the flow of refugees moving between the two countries.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that summoning the ambassador came after “the declarations of the Austrian government concerning the deployment of troops to the Brenner Pass”. The Brenner Pass, a famous crossing to the southwest of Austria and on the Italian border, has seen a surge in the number of refugees passing to and from Italy over the past months.
Austrian officials have made it clear that they would introduce border controls to block the flow. Austria’s Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said on Monday that troops would be deployed on the country’s border with Italy “very soon” if the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean did not slow.
“I expect that very soon border controls will be activated and that an assistance deployment (by the military) will be requested,” Doskozil said, adding that the move was “indispensable if the inflow into Italy does not ease”. Local Austrian media have reported that some 750 soldiers have already been called for the mission while officials had dispatched four armored vehicles to the area over the weekend. Austria introduced checks and controls on its eastern border with Hungary in 2015 and in the midst of a historic exodus of refugees to Europe. More than a million refugees, most of them people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, crossed to the continent that year, making some European countries reintroduce checks that had been abolished years ago as part of agreements in the European Union.—Agencies