Armored vehicles have been brought close to the border of Austria, where the government has become increasingly concerned over the influx of migrants seeking admission from Italy. The Austrian government will soon put controls into place at a key trade crossing -- the busy Brenner pass in the Alps. Austrian defense minister Peter Doskozil told the Kronenzeitung daily on Tuesday, "I expect border controls will be introduced very soon."
Heavy equipment and armored vehicles have already been emplaced in Tyrol, which borders Italy. An army spokesman said that the four armoured vehicles will be used to block roads.
"These are not battle tanks. These are armoured vehicles without weapons which could block roads. These were already used during the refugee crisis 201/16 at the Spielfeld border crossing (with Slovenia)." The Austrian army is capable of sending 750 soldiers within 72 hours to deal with emergencies, the spokesman said.
While both Austria and Italy belong to the Schengen Treaty’s open-border zone in Europe, which allows travel within the region without visas to citizens of member nations -- free movement is now in doubt because of the reemergence of border controls between members of the bloc ever since the beginning of the migrant crisis in 2015.
A spokesman for the Austrian defense ministry said that because Italy’s situation has become more dire, his country must be prepared for the eventuality of a situation resembling the onslaught of immigrants of 2016. So far in 2017 alone, Italy has received in excess of 80,000 refugees and migrants. Many of them crossed the Mediterranean from Africa, landing in Italy first.
Border controls at the Brenner pass could be nettlesome because crosses right through two closely connected communities in Austria's Tyrol and Italy's South Tyrol. Once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South Tyrol was annexed by Italy in 1918.