March 15, 2016 / 1:48 PM / 2 years ago

Austria to tighten checks at Italian border crossing soon: minister

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria will have to introduce tougher controls at the Brenner border crossing with Italy, a vital north-south transport link, Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said on Tuesday, anticipating a surge in arrivals.

Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil arrives for a cabinet meeting in Vienna, Austria, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Even before Austria coordinated a tightening of border restrictions with nearby Balkan countries that have left thousands of migrants stuck in Greece, it said it was preparing more stringent controls at crossings including Brenner.

These would include extra inspections of the thousands of trucks going through the crossing each day. Austria’s finance minister has promised an extra 100 customs officers.

“I assume that in the coming weeks a system of registration and controls similar to those at Spielfeld will be introduced,” Doskozil told reporters. Measures at Spielfeld include barriers to manage large crowds and a roughly 4 km (2.5 mile) fence.

The governor of Tyrol province, on the Austrian side of the Brenner crossing, told ORF radio he expected the controls to be introduced in mid-April, despite the current calm on Austria’s borders.

Governor Guenther Platter said Italy should ensure that migrants who cross the Mediterranean cannot head north.

“The installation of a separate lane is being worked on so that ... the economic traffic continues to run, but in the end, if there are controls, there will be traffic jams,” Platter added.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner was more guarded, telling reporters that Austria’s position was still that it was making preparations in case controls were needed.

Reporting by Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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