LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) -- Slovenia, once a staunch critic of fences between EU countries, said Tuesday it will start building a barrier on the border with Croatia to stem the influx of migrants but not stop it entirely.
Prime Minister Miro Cerar said Tuesday "at this moment, about 30,000 immigrants are on their way toward Slovenia" and that "a big number" of them could be stranded in the small Alpine state if neighboring Austria restricts their flow to an average of 6,000 a day.
An increased surge of migrants is expected across the Balkans because thousands were stranded in Greece last week due to a ferry strike that prevented thousands from leaving Greek islands that were their first destination after a perilous sea crossing from Turkey.
"If we don't act on time," Cerar said "this could cause a humanitarian catastrophe on the territory of Slovenia."
He said the "technical barrier" could be used to direct the refugee flow, not close the 670-kilometer (400 mile) border as was the case in Hungary.
"The only purpose of these obstacles, fences, is not to allow dispersion of immigrants," he said, stressing the measure is temporary and "Slovenia will not close the border."
Nearly 170,000 migrants have crossed Slovenia since mid-October when Hungary closed its border with a razor-wire fence with Croatia and the flow was redirected to Slovenia.
Slovenia's Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar said these measures "are not popular, but they are necessary."