|Photo: Montenegro Defence Ministry.|
Montenegro’s government has authorised the Defence Ministry to deploy the army to help handle a migrant crisis, granting the military the right to deploy a range of joint patrols with police forces.
Starting from Thursday, Montenegrin troops will be engaged in checks of the area around the Bozaj crossing, on the border with Albania and just a dozen kilometres from the capital Podgorica.
“The border will be controlled by mixed police and army patrols primarily in order to prevent illegal crossings of the state border with Albania, as well as other illegal actions in the border area,” the Defence Ministry said in a press release.
The ministry also said that the troops will be deployed on the basis of decision by the Defence and Security Council, the country’s top security body, which includes the prime minister and speaker of parliament and is chaired by the president.
When it made the decision to deploy the army on July 11, the Council said that the security situation on the border was “satisfactory” but that the troops will be engaged there until the end of 2018.
Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia have each seen an increase in numbers of refugees and migrants heading north to EU member Croatia since the beginning of 2018 – a total of 6,700 from January until the end of May, more than twice the number registered in these three countries for the whole of 2017.
In the first five months of this year, the government has said, Montenegro registered about 1,500 illegal crossings, much more than in the previous year.
Local media reports suggest the vast majority come from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Iraq.
Because of the unexpected recent rise in illegal crossings, Montenegro said in June it will seek a status agreement with the EU’s border and migration agency Frontex, to protect its border with Albania.
“Experience has proved that no country in the region that has been hit by migratory waves can fight this phenomenon on its own,” the government explained.
Seeing a rise in illegal crossings, the authorities were also considering erecting a Hungarian-style razor-wire fence on the 26-kilometre border with Albania.
In May, Hungary offered to donate a fence but Podgorica said it was not necessary “so far”.
Visiting Podgorica on July 24, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban offered the fence donation again. Montenegrin premier Dusko Markovic thanked him but said: “For now, there are no reasons for that.”