February 11, 2016 / 2:06 PM / 3 years ago

Austria reports rise in conscripts volunteering for border duty

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria has reported an increase in the number of conscripts volunteering to extend their stay in the army for a tour of duty at the southern border on the main route for migrants traveling from Turkey into the heart of Europe.

Austria, at the center of Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War Two, has deployed soldiers to help police deal with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have streamed onto its soil since September.

“In one company (of 200)...74 recruits voluntarily registered to go to the border immediately after their six months of military service,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

They will be deployed as reservists near the border with Slovenia next month.

Military service or a civilian alternative, such as working in a hospital, is compulsory for young adults in Austria.

Often mirroring measures adopted by neighboring Germany, where the overwhelming majority of arrivals choose to go, Austria has tightened controls at its border, saying it wants to discourage migrants from coming.

Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil and Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner are considering additional measures at the border such as those at its busiest crossing, with Slovenia, where a 4-km (2.5-mile) fence and barriers to manage crowds have been erected.

“We must of course be prepared for a shift in the routes,” Mikl-Leitner told reporters this week. “I cannot rule out that further fences must be built to secure our borders.”

Reporting by Francois Murphy

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