EU refugee plan under fire as ministers try to break deadlock
A plan to share out refugees across the European Union was rejected outright by the Czech Republic on Tuesday and criticized by a United Nations agency for not going far enough.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said his country would reject any quota system for redistributing 120,000 refugees across the 28-nation bloc, AP reported.
The Czech Republic is among several central European countries to have sparred with Germany and others over accepting refugees flooding into Europe.
EU interior ministers will discuss redistributing 120,000 migrants at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, and the dissenting countries may be outvoted on the issue under the EU’s decision-making rules if there is no agreement.
Nearly half a million people fleeing war and poverty, two-fifths of them from Syria, have crossed the Mediterranean this year to reach Europe, overwhelming the EU’s southern states and plunging them into furious rows over border controls.
“We will strictly reject any attempt to introduce some permanent mechanism of redistributing refugees,” Sobotka told reporters. “We as well reject using a quota system in any temporary mechanism.”
Sobotka said the EU needed to focus on trying to find a solution to the war in Syria; helping in countries neighboring the crisis areas; protecting external borders; creating centers for asylum-seekers at EU borders and turning back economic migrants. The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said the 120,000 people the bloc is seeking to share out were equivalent to just 20 days’ worth of arrivals at the current rate.
“A relocation program alone, at this stage in the crisis, will not be enough to stabilize the situation,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said, calling on the EU to set up reception facilities for tens of thousands of refugees at any one time.
Amid bitter recriminations between member states, EU leaders want to focus at an emergency summit on Wednesday on ramping up aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and the rest of the Middle East and tightening control on the bloc’s frontiers.
Ministers are trying to find consensus to avoid a vote that could alienate the bloc’s eastern minority and cause further division.