Bump, set, spiked fence: Protesters play volleyball over Slovenia's anti-refugee barrier
Organized by the Croatian city of Pula, the friendly game drew several hundred people on Saturday. Ordinary citizens were joined by Croatian and Slovenian Olympians, volleyball players, and public figures, Total Croatian News reported.
"We condemn the act of placing wires along European fences, it is an act that prevents us from living in harmony, peaceful coexistence and tolerance...our aim is to show that all conflicts can be resolved with cooperation, creativity and, as you've seen today, sport," said Nina Kamber, culture director of the Croatian city of Pula.
The match took place at two different spots on the Istria peninsula: at the Lucija–Brezovica and Dragonja–Kaštel crossings.
Although the protest was mainly peaceful, some demonstrators tried to destroy the fence with wire cutters, prompting Slovenian police to attempt to arrest one person. However, that person was dragged away after a short scuffle and police declined to detain him, Mashable reported.
It's not the first time those unhappy with the barrier have acted out in creative protest. Earlier this month, demonstrators adorned the fence with Christmas decorations in the colors of the European Union – blue and gold. Others took it a step further, actually managing to remove parts of the barrier.
The fence, commissioned by the Slovenian government, has also been slammed by Croatia.
“In recent weeks, the neighboring state several times stepped on Croatian territory and violated the bilateral agreement on border cooperation, and in many places constructed a razor wire fence on the territory undeniably belonging to the Republic of Croatia, thus creating obstacles in a number of joint border crossing points,” Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic wrote in a letter to First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans. He added that Croatia had sent five diplomatic notes urging Slovenia to take down the fence.
Pusic also wrote that the wire “presents an insurmountable obstacle to the migration of wild native species" and "seriously affects everyday life of the local population.”
Those thoughts were echoed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
"Nature does not recognize borders and cross-border habitats are extremely endangered [by the fence],” the head of the Zagreb-based WWF regional office, Martin Solar, said in a statement. He added that bears and wolves that live in and cross between Croatia and Slovenia are most threatened, and that local hunters say deer have been killed by the barbed wire.
Slovenia says the barrier is designed to “direct the uncontrolled crossing of refugees and to prevent the dispersion of migrants, and direct them to the crossings where we will do everything to control the flow and limit the number of migrants to the levels Slovenia can manage,” according to Euronews. The country began facing an surge in refugee numbers after Hungary closed its border with Croatia in October.
Slovenia, which has so far completed some 140 kilometers (86 miles) of the fence, says the barrier will be deconstructed once the refugee influx into the country ceases. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have transitioned through the region since the summer, in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.