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25th Sep 2021

Romania and Cyprus impose migrant relocation conditions

  • Romania's PM Ponta wants to join Schengen zone in exchange for relocating migrants (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Romania and Cyprus are demanding EU concessions in exchange for allowing in a set number of relocated asylum seekers.

On Monday (7 September), Romania’s prime minister Victor Ponta said he won’t accept relocated asylum seekers unless Romania is allowed to join the Schengen passport-free zone.

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“Solidarity means both rights and obligations, so if they want us to have the same obligations, they have to give us the same rights”, he said.

Romania, along with Bulgaria, had hoped to join Schengen in 2011 after becoming EU members in 2007. But corruption and lack of rule of law has held back the process.

Germany vetoed Romania’s accession despite backing from the European Commission and the European Parliament.

All member states except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are in Schengen. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are also in.

The latest relocation plan to be presented this week requires Romania to accept around 4,600 asylum seekers.

But Romania says the figure is too high and that it will only accept 1,785 people.

Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis, who over the summer had asked Ponta to resign over corruption allegations, also opposes mandatory quotas.

"We can treat this matter with calm and responsibility and be sympathetic with those countries having a large number of refugees. I don't think that mandatory quotas are the solution”, he said.

Christians only, please

Cyprus, for its part, says it too prefers to host only Christian refugees.

"We would seek for them to be Orthodox Christians … it’s not an issue of being inhuman or not helping if we are called upon, but to be honest, yes, that’s what we would prefer,” Cypriot interior minister Socrates Hasikos told state radio on Monday.

Cyprus is set to accept 274 relocated asylum seekers under the commission’s latest scheme, but is willing to take up to 300.

Hasikos comments follow similar declarations by Slovakia.

In August, a Slovak interior ministry spokesperson said the lack of mosques in the country means they only Christians would be happy to live there.

Czech and Polish leaders havee made similar remarks on integration of Muslims.

They’ve also agreed to host Christian only families from Syria in non-EU rescue missions orgnaised by a Biritsh charity.

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