A man walks past a street sign reading “Brenner – Brennero” on the Italian-Austrian border, Italy, May 3, 2016. © Reuters
Hundreds of people are set to stage a rally at a border crossing between Italy and Austria
to protest against a planned barrier aimed at stopping the flow of refugees.
Local police in Tyrol, Austria, said around 400 protesters are expected to gather at the Brenner Pass in the Alps on Saturday afternoon to voice their anger at Austria’s plan to fence off the border crossing.
The demonstration is expected to start around 2:30 pm local time (1230 GMT), according to the police.
Tyrol police said Austria planned to send 300 police officers to the protests but they were “ready to increase the number,” adding that the Italian police were also prepared to send the same number.
Austria has said it will erect the fence at the border crossing to “channel” people.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in the Italian capital, Rome, last month that as many as a million refugees were poised to cross the Mediterranean from Libya this year.
Italy, however, says the figure is much lower.
After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that Rome and Berlin are utterly opposed to Austria’s plan to build a fence at its border with Italy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attend a press conference after their meeting in Rome’s Palazzo Chigi on May 5, 2016. (AFP photo)
“We expressed our total opposition to, and, in some ways, our shock over the position that has been taken by our Austrian friends,” Renzi said during a joint news
conference with Merkel in Rome.
Brenner, part of Europe
’s borderless Schengen zone, is one of the routes that refugees use as they head towards wealthy northern Europe
Schengen has been disrupted over the past year as Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
More than 173,700 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 720 people died in their journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).