Austrian troops, armored vehicles ready to block migrants crossing from Italy

Austrian Bundeswehr troops equipped with weapons and riot gear on the Austria-Italian border

UPI, By Allen Cone   |   July 4, 2017

July 4 (UPI) — Austria’ plans to use 750 soldiers and four armored vehicles in an effort to block migrants crossing its border from Italy, the government said Tuesday.

Austria is increasing its military presence at Brenner Pass, a key trade and transport route through the Alps, officials said.

Asylum seekers are crossing the Mediterranean from the coast of Libya into Italy — a distance of 290 miles. So far this year, 101,000 migrants have entered Europe from the Mediterranean, and 2,247 people have died or are missing at sea, according to data from the Missing Migrants Project

Italy also has summoned Austria’s ambassador Rene Pollitzer.

The troops are on standby and will be sent to the border if there is an urgent need, officials said.

“I expect border controls will be introduced very soon,” Peter Doskozil, the defence minister, told the newspaper Kronen Zeitung. “But we see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015.”

Several hundred thousands refugees and migrants streamed into Western Europe along the so-called Balkan Route after crossing the Aegean to Greece from Turkey two years ago.

Austria has border checks with Hungary and Slovenia, but in other areas it adheres to the European Unon open borders system.

France and Switzerland closed their borders to migrants last year.

Italy has said it cannot handle the level of migrant arrivals, and could close its ports and impound aid agencies’ rescue ships.

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