Slovakia on Tuesday canceled border controls on its frontier with Hungary just a day after enacting them — following a failure to catch any undocumented migrants.
The country’s new government sent hundreds of police officers, troops and dogs to its border with Hungary on Monday afternoon, ostensibly to prevent undocumented migrants from entering the country. The forces were deployed on routes believed to be used most frequently by migrants, not on the entire 677-kilometer length of the border.
“This demonstration of strength, which is being shown on the entire green border, is intended to make it clear to everyone, especially smugglers and organizers of illegal migration, that Slovakia is ready and will protect its own territory from illegal migration,” Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said.
The display lasted about 12 hours — from 7 p.m. on Monday until 5 a.m. on Tuesday.
“During this entire time, we have not recorded any arrests,” interim police chief Rastislav Polakovič said at a Tuesday press conference.
Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj Eštok said the deployment had been a “one-time thing” that “will be repeated as appropriate.” He and Fico both said Monday that they feared a “significant deterioration in the migration situation in the short term.”
Michal Šimečka, leader of the liberal opposition party Progresívne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia), called the government’s move “expensive theater” that deflected attention from Slovakia’s real problems. “The current theater at the border is just wasting our country’s finances and human capacity. Real solutions require political courage and the ability to agree within the European Union,” he said.
Fico, who became prime minister for the fourth time last month after his leftist-populist Smer (Direction) party won September’s general election, had made undocumented migration one of his main talking points, promising to take control of the situation.
Slovakia had recently resumed random checks on its border with Hungary on October 5.
Some 40,000 undocumented migrants were recorded entering Slovakia in transit to another destination in the first three quarters of this year, compared to around 5,000 last year. In recent weeks, however, the number of migrants has dwindled.