Anti-migrant paramilitary group springs up in Slovenia

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An anti-immigrant armed group formed by a right-wing politician has sparked concern in the small European Union nation, Slovenia. The armed group, called "Guard of Stajerska," appeared on social media with several dozen masked men training in a field in military-like outfits and holding axes and rifles. Photos on websites show up to 50 masked people with guns led by an unmasked politician Andrej Sisko.

The former presidential candidate Andrej Sisko has confirmed the existence of the group, which he described as the guards of the Stajerska region, in the northeast of the country. Sisko defended his group stating that it was not a paramilitary unit, but a "volunteer defense group of free men," according to the official STA news agency. He told Reuters that his group would secure order if necessary, adding that it was doing nothing illegal, although he acknowledged that the weapons it uses have not been registered with the Slovenian authorities.

Sisko also attacked multiculturalism, saying the country should accept immigrants only if they accept Slovenian culture. He also leads the center-right United Slovenia Movement, which got 0.6 percent of the vote in a June general election and thus failed to make it to Parliament. The party has no connection to the military group, he said.

The internet footage sparked outrage among politicians. Slovenian President Borut Pahor expressed his concern on Monday saying that there was no place for such a group in the European Union member state. "President Pahor stresses that Slovenia is a safe country in which no unauthorized person needs or is allowed to ... illegally care for the security of the country and its borders," Pahor's cabinet said in a statement. Interior Minister Vensa Gyorkos Znidar said authorities will not tolerate the existence of any parallel armed groups in Slovenia. Prime Minister-designate Marjan Sarec tweeted that any armed grou​p outside Slovenia's security forces "undermines the constitutional and legal order," as reported by The Associated Press. The police said thye had begun an investigation into the matter.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in Slovenia since 2015 and 2016 when almost half a million migrants crossed the country on their way to richer EU states. The number of requests for an asylum in Slovenia has risen significantly from 277 in the whole of 2015 to 1,717 so far this year. However, only 77 people have been granted asylum in 2018 versus 152 in the whole of 2017, interior ministry data showed. An anti-immigrant stand helped the center-right Slovenian Democratic Party to win most votes at the June election but the party lacked coalition partners to form a government. As a consequence a minority government of five center-left parties is due to be confirmed in the Parliament next week.

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