Austrian authorities have been reinforcing the Brenner border point with Italy in recent weeks in preparation for what the government expects will be a new wave of refugees and migrants making their way to central Europe via Italy.
Arrivals in Italy are believed to be on the verge of spiking upwards because of the closing down of the migrant route to central Europe via Greece and the Balkans.
The measures taken at Brenner follow the earlier introduction of checks near the southern border town of Spielfeld and comes amid the erecting of fences along Austria’s eastern border with Hungary.
Speaking following a meeting with politicians in Tyrol and Italy’s South Tyrol region, Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka confirmed that border checks at Brenner are necessary “to continue to guarantee the security of Austria.”
He confirmed they will be introduced at the end of May, adding that a fence may also be erected along the border “if Italy does not introduce measures” to control the numbers at the border.
This was reiterated by the head of the police in Tyrol Helmut Tomac, who said they expect between 400 and 500 refugees a day at Brenner rather than the tens of thousands who arrived at Spielfeld last year.
Tomac added that this depended on whether Italian authorities took measures to organise the refugees, for example by “sending them back again”.
“Then there is no need for a fence,” he said, quoted in the ORF.
Border protest against Austrian policy
The meeting comes amid protests at the border against Austria’s hardline approach to migrants.
Hundreds of Italian demonstrators on Sunday faced off with similar numbers of Austrian police at the border between the two countries in the latest sign of tensions arising from Europe's migrant crisis.
One of the demonstration's organisers was briefly detained by Austrian police, but unlike previous protests the event did not degenerate into serious violence.