ROME (Reuters) – Controls at the border between Italy and Slovenia will probably continue into next year, Rome’s interior minister said on Tuesday, citing the risk of terrorists among the migrants in transit on the Balkan route.
Italy reinstated police checks at the border as of Oct. 21 for an initial 10 days, suspending the free movement normally allowed within most of the European Union under the Schengen treaty.
Following the attack on Israel by Hamas, and assaults by self-proclaimed Islamist militants in France and in Belgium, Rome said the threat of violent action had increased inside the EU.
“An enforcement limited to the first 10 days will not be enough,” Minister Matteo Piantedosi told the northern Italian newspaper Il Piccolo.
The minister told a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday that Italy was aware of the importance of free movement of European citizens within the Schengen area and would act to re-establish it as soon as possible.
“We decided to restore controls only as a last-resort measure,” he said.
He told lawmakers 3,142 people and 1,555 vehicles had been checked as of Monday, with police tracking down 66 irregular migrants and arresting two people, one of them on charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
Piantedosi said around 16,000 people illegally reached Italy across the eastern border in 2023, and he had scheduled a meeting with the Slovenian and Croatian interior ministers on Nov. 2 to discuss border police cooperation.
The government has also strengthened its anti-terrorism controls at the maritime border, he said.
Italy has also seen a surge in seaborne migrants leaving from northern Africa.
Over 141,000 have disembarked so far this year, compared to around 79,000 in the same period in 2022, official data show.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Barbara Lewis)