New ways for refugees into the European Union?

A journalist from “Deutschlandfunk” visited Slovakian border guards working at the Slovakian-Ukrainian border. His article was originally published in German, here the BMPU-translation:


16.7.2015 Kilian Kirchgeßner
By building up a four meters high and 175 kilometers long fence refugees should be prevented from entering Hungary via Serbia. The plans are criticized in the European Union, because the refugees will probably not stay away from the European Union, they only will lock for other ways – for example over Slovakia.

The last meters we have to walk. Maros Krnac drove in his car on small ways to the border but here even his jeep can’t continue. In the dense forest is a trail. On the top of the mountain there is a lane in the forest – the border to Ukraine. Krnac straights up his police uniform. “When a group is crossing this area, one can see their track in the high grass and we can start to look for them. As you can see, the territory is difficult, the next village is seven, eight kilometers away. And before they are crossing the border, the refugees have to climb up a high mountain. The people are exhausted and can’t continue.”

Here, in eastern Slovakia, there is not only a land border; the lane in the forest is the external border of the European Union, too. 100 kilometers in rough terrain; this is the area of border guard Maros Krnac and his colleague Agnesa Kopernicka. Maros Krnac points on two three meters high poles: One is colored red-white-blue, the colors of Slovakia, the other one in yellow-blue, the colors of Ukraine. “The poles are along the lane, so that you can see from one to the other. This means, that you realize for sure, that you crossed the border. Anyway, when we arrest refugees, in nearly every case they are claiming, that they do not know, that they are already in Slovakia. They do not say much.” His colleague Agnesa Kopernicka adds:  “It happened once, that they crossed the border and they thought, they are already in Germany”.

Before entering the Schengen Area Slovakia tripled the number of police men working at the border. In our days, 800 police men are working here. And not only this: The border guards got more technical equipment. They use quads, in winter they use snowmobiles, everywhere are camera towers equipped with night vision devices, which automatically start an alarm, if something is moving. It is nearly impossible to cross this border, says Maros Krnac and he sounds proud.

“In the morning, the patrolling groups get instructions, at what time they should protect which area. Of course, this changes every day and night. We also know, which group is the closest and can get there fast, if something is happing”. But this does not happen very often. The border guards say, that last year, a smuggler shot on their colleagues; they shot back and the smuggler died.

Maros Krnac and Agnesa Kopernickacame came back to their jeep and the patrol continues along the border. “Last year we caught 220 refugees. Mainly they were from Afghanistan. Some years ago there were many Somalis, there are always waves. Before there were a lot Moldavians, this obviously was economic migration. This changes all the time, depending on how the recent situation is in the world.

Here, at Slovakia’s end, they have their own view on the events in the world. Even though there have not been much work in the last year, they think it is necessary to be aware all the time, because the situation can change very fast. “When you think about it: In our days, a lot of refugees come from Greece via Serbia to Hungary. If a fence is build up, the people have to look for others ways. I promise you, they will changes their routes.”

And then, the nearly 100 kilometers long border between Ukraine and Slovakia is the next option to find a way into the European Union.

Recently published by BMPU: Report on Corruption in the Immigration, Detention and Asylum System of Ukraine

Published 2011 by BMPU: Access to Protection Denied – Refoulement of Refugees and Minors on the Eastern Borders of the EU

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