Saturday 10 December 2016

EU ministers approve migrant relocation plan

Published 22/09/2015 | 09:05

People walk past a police line as they board a train close to Croatia's border with Serbia. (AP)
People walk past a police line as they board a train close to Croatia's border with Serbia. (AP)

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

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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 present.

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% of those who are arriving in Greece are coming to Germany. With a quota of 26%, fewer of this group would come."

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

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 and threatened each other as the unrelenting flow of asylum-seekers raised diplomatic tensions to a boiling point.

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency said the next few days may be the last chance for a coherent European response as hundreds of thousands flow from war-torn areas in the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Europe.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the proposal on the table isn't enough to stabilise the situation, because 477,906 people have already entered Europe by sea this year.

It urged the EU to quickly set up facilities in Greece, where tens of thousands have arrived after making the hazardous sea crossing from Turkey.

This may be "the last opportunity for a coherent European response," said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for UNHCR.

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