Slovakia Says Fewer Illegal Migrants Found After Schengen

Slovakia says fewer illegal migrants found after Schengen

EU Business
15 July 2008, 16:48 CET

(BRATISLAVA) – The number of illegal migrants caught on the Slovak-Austrian border has dropped by around 97 percent since Slovakia joined Europe's passport-free Schengen zone at the end of 2007, the Slovak interior ministry told AFP on Tuesday.

The number of illegal immigrants found on the border between the two EU countries, which still carry out patrols along their frontier, fell to 20 in the first six months of 2008 compared with 751 in the same period last year, the ministry said.

“Slovakia is no more an attractive corridor for illegal migrants,” ministry spokesman Erik Tomas said.

Slovakia had to reinforce security on its eastern border with Ukraine, previously a gateway for illegal immigrants from the Middle East, Asia and former Soviet Union, as a condition for membership of the European passport free zone.

The number of migrants on the Slovak-Ukrainian border has dropped by a third to 461 in the first half of this year compared with 690 in the first six months of 2007, border police said.

Cooperation between the 24-Schengen zone members contributed to cutting the number of illegal immigrants, police added.

Austrian Interior Minister Maria Fekter said in a joint news conference with her Slovak counterpart Robert Kalinak on the border at Jarovce-Kitsee that 300 illegal migrants were caught in Austria in the first half of the year, down from 7,000 in the same period last year.

“The crime rate (in Austria) fell by 6 percent” from December 2007, Fekter added, pointing out that popular fears of soaring crime rates following Slovakia's Schengen membership had proved to be false.