Slovakia extends Hungary border controls to Jan. 22

(Reuters) – Slovakia will keep temporary border controls with Hungary in place until Jan. 22, the government said on Wednesday, extending checks aimed at preventing a renewed spike in illegal immigration.

The central European country imposed the border controls on Oct. 5, following neighbours Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria, which had tightened their own frontiers with Slovakia.

After several extensions, the checks had been due to end on Dec. 23.

Slovakia has seen a several-fold increase in illegal migration in 2023 as migrants, mostly young men from the Middle East and Afghanistan, transit through – via Hungary – on their way to richer western countries such as Germany.

Border controls cut the number of illegal migrant detentions to 34 in November, from 6,809 in October, the Interior Ministry said in documents supporting the extension.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico returned to power for a fourth time last month after winning a September election in which his pledges to protect borders from illegal migration played a role in campaigning.

Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany – which have all deployed border measures in recent months – are part of the European Union’s Schengen open-border zone.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Alex Richardson)