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18th Jan 2020

Interior ministers in asylum showdown

  • Hungary's PM Orban says the asylum seekers are economic migrants (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Interior ministers in Brussels on Monday (14 September) are set to determine the fate of 160,000 asylum seekers.

The gathering follows mounting resistance to make relocation proposals mandatory, Hungary’s refusal to take part, and Germany’s recent decision to impose temporary border control checks with Austria.

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Despite the recent developments, ministers on Monday are still set to adopt an initial plan to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece over the next two years.

The scheme applies to nationalities with a high chance of being granted asylum, such as Syrians and Iraqis who arrived in the EU from 15 August 2015 until 16 September 2017.

Those who arrived before 15 August will fall under normal Dublin asylum rules whereby the point-of-entry state is required to process their application.

120,000 showdown

Ministers will also discuss a second package to relocate another 120,000 from Italy (15,600), Greece (50,400), and Hungary (54,000).

But any decision on how to distribute them across member states will be made at another meeting of ministers in Luxembourg in October.

Instead, the big debate on Monday will likely focus on Hungary’s recent announcement that it is not interested in benefiting from the 120,000 relocation scheme as thousands continue to enter Hungary on a daily basis.

AFP news agency, citing Hungarian police, reported that a record 5,809 migrants entered Hungary on Sunday, up from the previous day's record of 4,330.

Hungary’s opposition to the plan means ministers will have to negotiate other terms.

Discussions to end the deadlock between EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungary on Sunday failed, reports Reuters.

Hungary has instead opted to erect a border fence with Serbia and impose stringent laws against people who cross the border.

It could mean Hungary would instead be required to take in more asylum seekers.

"If you don't want to become a country of origin for location, then you have to take people", said one EU source.

A second EU source said Germany and Austria offered to absorb Hungary’s 54,000 quota.

Juncker also spoke to Czech and Slovak leaders, who also refuse to budge.

The UK and Denmark will not participate and Ireland has said it would help.

If no political decision on the 120,000 is reached, then an EU summit may be organised before the end of the moth.

Austria’s chancellor Werner Faymann said on Sunday the country would not reinstate temporary border controls with Germany.

"We will continue to coordinate closely with Germany to achieve an orderly situation as planned", he said in Vienna.

He warned Germany and Austria would consider sanctions for those who refuse to participate in the proposal.

Over 381,000 people reached the EU in the first eight months of 2015 alone. Of those, some 258,000 arrived on the Greek islands.

The vast majority who landed in Greece are fleeing wars and persecution from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

"The real European crisis is one of leadership and Europe's failure to radically reform its collapsing asylum system, with dire consequences for vulnerable people who need safety and sanctuary", said Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty International's European institutions office.

Hungary rejects EU offer to take refugees

The EU's migrant relocation plan would have relieved Hungary of 54,000 asylum-seekers, but Hungary said on Thursday it did not want to have any part in the quota scheme.

Germany reinstates EU border controls

Germany has introduced temporary border controls to block the free movement of refugees, putting pressure on eastern EU states to take more migrants.

The day borders came back to Europe

First Germany, then Austria, and now the Czech Republic and Slovakia have begun reinforcing border controls due to the migrant crisis, in a big blow to EU free movement.

EU aid pushing Libyan refugees back to war-hit Libya

At least 17 Libyans were returned to their war-torn country after attempting to flee on boats towards Europe. Their fates, along with many others, remain unknown as the EU-backed Libyan Coast Guard sweeps up people en masse.

Erdogan warns Europe of new migration crisis

Turkey's president Erdogan said more violence in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib would trigger a new migration crisis "felt by all European countries."

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