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Austria – debates tighter border controls, potential construction of fence

VIENNA, (Xinhua) — Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner on Wednesday said the government is in agreement that “technical security measures” are needed to control the large influx of migrants.

However, the measure do not involve a fence that would stretch across the entire Austrian border, they added.

The planned technical closure of the Austrian border at a major crossing point for migrants in the country’s south has been subject to considerable debate since Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner made the announcement on Tuesday.

“There is a difference between establishing a barrier, and an access point that has attached parts on both sides,” Faymann said, according to an Austria Press Agency report.

He added the measures were not about a “drawing of boundaries over many kilometers.”

Mitterlehner said Austria must show an ability to deal with the situation, which includes not simply “watching as people stream across the border,” and that authority and sovereignty were important.

Opposition parties the Freedom Party and Team Stronach welcomed the tightened border control measures. Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache spoke in favor of a fence or other “firm closures” at the Slovenian border, but adding the government must ensure controls remain in place.

The Greens Party and other major Austrian parties, along with charity organizations, spoke against the construction of a fence, however.

They argued such a measure would either not solve the problem at hand, is unfair to humans in need and that the money required for its construction could be better spent elsewhere.

Faymann noted planned measures would have to be coordinated with Germany before being implemented.

The European Commission stated Wednesday it had not yet been officially informed of the plan by the Austrian government.

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