Slovakia’s new populist cabinet to boost border guard against refugees

Slovakia’s new populist cabinet to boost border guard against refugees
Incoming Prime Minister Robert Fico criticised the previous technocratic cabinet for inaction. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera in Brno October 31, 2023

Slovakia's new populist cabinet led by Robert Fico is to deploy what it described as massive force along the border with Hungary to prevent the irregular entry of refugees. Fico told media from the border crossing at Cunovo-Rajka that his cabinet is considering strengthening the police with the army too.

“We are very worried about significant worsening of the migration situation in a short period of time,” Fico told media. He claimed that more than 46,000 people crossed the Slovak border illegally in 2023 and criticised the previous technocratic cabinet for inaction.   

Refugee flows westwards via Hungary and then Slovakia have been increasing in recent weeks, prompting Czechia, Poland and Austria to impose controls on the Slovak border. The outgoing Slovak government then imposed controls on the country's border with Hungary at the start of October. All the countries are inside the EU's Schengen free movement zone.

Fico and his Smer party are coming off an aggressive campaign during which they were building up fear on social media of the “uncontrolled” migration flow Slovakia faces. 

The new Slovak PM said that all border crossings are now under control.

“Right after our intelligence communication with Hungary tells us there is a crossing of a larger amount of illegal migrants and are approaching Slovakia via Hungary, we are capable of deploying forces of similar size” along the border, Fico told media, and vowed to detain every “illegal migrant” who attempts to cross the border.

“People must live more peacefully and more securely in light of what is happening in the world,” Fico stated.

Fico was backed by the new Minister of Interior, Matus Sutaj Estok of the centre-left Hlas party, who linked the worsening conditions to the war in Gaza.

The cabinet’s actions were criticised by the leader of the opposition, Michal Simecka of Progressive Slovakia, who described the mass border controls as “theatrics which are just wasting financial and human resources of our country”.

Simecka added that the new cabinet is trying to divert attention away from the changes in the police it has been carrying out.

Sutaj Estok fired the Police President Stefan Hamran, under whose watch investigations into Smer’s 2010s era in power were taking place. Sutaj Estok fired Hamran even though he had already resigned in the wake of the incoming Smer-led cabinet. More firings of officers have since been taking place.

Journalists and anti-corruption NGOs fear that Fico’s cabinet will bend the police and judiciary to protect Smer party officials against ongoing investigations.