EU forces nations to take 120,000 refugees

Hundreds of migrants who arrived by train at Hegyeshalom on the Hungarian- Austrian border walk the four kilometres into Austria. Picture: Getty

Hundreds of migrants who arrived by train at Hegyeshalom on the Hungarian- Austrian border walk the four kilometres into Austria. Picture: Getty

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EUROPEAN Union ministers meeting in Brussels have approved a plan to relocate 120,000 migrants across Europe.

Some countries were opposed, the Twitter post from the Luxembourg mission to the European Union indicated.

It said the decision was adopted by a “large majority” of the EU’s 28 member states, without naming the opponents. Some countries in Eastern Europe have resisted accepting the forced resettlement of refugees on their territory.

Luxembourg currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and presided over the meeting of interior and justice ministers in Brussels.

Milan Chovanec, the Czech interior minister, tweeted that the proposal was approved - but that the Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians and Hungarians voted against it and Finland abstained.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the agreement “an important step” that was approved by a “crushing majority” of the 28 ministers.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said his country would take more than 30,000 people.

“We are doing this out of solidarity and responsibility, but also in our own interest,” he said.

“At the moment, something like 50 per cent of those arriving in Greece are coming to Germany. With a quota of 26 per cent, fewer would come.”

Mr de Maziere said the deal also aims to cut “secondary migration” in which people move from one country to another.

He said: “If people are distributed in Europe, then they can’t choose what country they go to. They have to stay in the country they were distributed to.”

While the ministers talked in Brussels, migrants scuffled with police at a transit camp in Croatia, and nations in south-east Europe scolded each other as the unrelenting flow of asylum-seekers raised diplomatic tensions to a boiling point.

The UN refugee agency said the scheme would be insufficient, given the large numbers arriving in Europe. “A relocation programme alone, at this stage in the crisis, will not be enough to stabilise the situation,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

The number of those needing relocation will probably have to be revised upwards significantly, she said.

The UN says close to 480,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea this year, and are now reaching European shores at a rate of nearly 6,000 a day.

Under the EU’s constitution, a country that does not agree with a policy on migration imposed upon it could have the right to appeal to the European Council - if it feels “the fundamental principles of its social security or legal system are under threat”.

None of the countries that voted against the plan has yet indicated if they would appeal.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn, who chaired the meeting, said he had “no doubt” opposing countries would implement the measures.

But Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would not implement the quotas as long as he was in office.

A statement from the European Commission said foreign ministers would now discuss reforms to the Dublin regulation, which demands migrants register in the first EU country in which they arrive.

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