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Slovenia parliament passes law to quicken processing of asylum seekers

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - The Slovenian parliament passed legislation late on Friday that is aimed at speeding up the processing of asylum seekers in a country that in recent months has been flooded with migrants on their way to Western Europe.

Migrants wait to cross the border from Slovenia into Spielfeld in Austria, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

In line with the new law, the government will have to process asylum requests as quickly as possible. It currently takes several months for each request to be resolved.

“With the new legislative framework the government wants to enable fast and efficient decision making about asylum requests,” Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar told the parliament.

“The whole of Europe is under big (migration) pressure, we are at the breaking point. We (the EU) need to adopt decisions at this moment that will prevent the migrant crisis of 2015 from being repeated,” she said ahead of the parliamentary vote.

The parliament rejected the opposition demands to determine the maximum number of people who would be able to get an asylum in the country each year.

Since October, when Hungary sealed off its border with Croatia and pushed the migrant route west to Slovenia, almost 500,000 migrants passed Slovenia on their way to Austria and other Western European countries.

Only about 460 of those have requested asylum in Slovenia, which with two million people is the smallest country on the Balkan migrant route. About 10 of those migrants have so far been granted asylum in the country.

But many Slovenians fear that the number of asylum requests may surge in the coming months as Western Europe is gradually closing its borders to migrants.

In recent weeks, Slovenia saw a number of protests by local citizens against migrant centers in their cities, claiming migrant arrivals would threaten security.

Last week, the Slovenian police revealed that an agreement between Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia has been reached to limit the flow of migrants to about 580 per day per country.

As a consequence thousands of migrants are being detained on the Greek border with Macedonia.

Reporting by Marja Novak; editing by Chris Reese, G Crosse