ROME (Reuters) – Italy will prolong border controls with Slovenia until June, Rome’s interior ministry said on Wednesday, citing the risk of terrorists hiding among migrants in transit on the Balkan route.
Free movement on the border with Slovenia, as stipulated by the Schengen passport-free area, was suspended in the second half of October, following the outbreak of the latest Hamas-Israel conflict.
“Border controls with Slovenia will be extended, as of Jan. 19, for a further five months,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said that border checks would be carried out in a way that minimises the impact on movement of people and freight traffic.
The decision comes a day after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi discussed migration and security threats on the Balkan route with Slovenian and Croatian counterparts.
His ministry said over 1,600 irregular migrants had been tracked down at the border between Italy and Slovenia, out of 160,000 people subjected to police checks.
Piantedosi’s office said 76 people were arrested as a result of the controls, and 52 of them were charged with aiding and abetting irregular immigration.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Alvise Armellini and Tomasz Janowski)