bne IntelliNews -
Central European countries have fallen well short of European Union targets for redistributing aslyum seekers in Italy and Greece around the rest of the bloc.
The European Commission had originally planned mandatory quotas for EU countries to take the pressure off Italy and Greece, the main arrival points. Close to 2,000 migrants a month have been dying in their attempts to reach European shores.
The Commission plan was rejected in June after strong opposition, including from Central European countries. Instead member states were asked to take 40,000 migrants from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq on a voluntary basis.
However, many countries have refused to accept the suggested number of aslyum seekers, with Central European member states being among the worst offenders, even though most of them have taken in very few migrants in the past. The lack of welcome for immigrants comes despite the CEE region's poor demography that could be addressed to an extent by immigrants.
At a meeting in Brussels on July 20 EU counties only agreed to take in 32,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, though they did agree to a separate plan to resettle 22,000 refugees from outside the EU within the bloc.
Of the 40,000 target, the 11 former communist countries – their citizens often seeking refugee status in Western Europe before 1989 – agreed to accept only 7,510 refugees, significantly less than the EU had proposed.
Poland will accept a total of 2,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea during 2016 and 2017, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said on July 21.
“We are going to take in people who are fleeing their countries in order to live,” Kopacz told a news conference. Facing political pressure ahead of October elections, the PM stressed the action is a “one-off,” and all costs will paid by the European Union.
The European Commission had originally proposed Poland accept over 3,600 refugees. The government said the lower number is due to expectations that more than 1,200 Ukrainian refugees could be on the way.
The Baltic states, also pressing for a strong EU front towards Russia, also appear less enthusiastic to show solidarity over the migrant issue. Lithuania will accept 325 refugees, against an original suggestion from Brussels that it has the capacity to accept 710. Estonia will accept 150 refugees, while Latvia 250.
The Czech Republic will take 1,500. While also below the number earmarked by the EU, it is amongst the highest on a per capita basis.
Hungary - which has come under no little criticism for a percieved lean towards Moscow - also comes in at the extreme end of the scale over asylum seekers. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has led a strong campaign against immigration in recent months, and with asylum applications skyrocketing this year, earned his country an exemption from the EU plan entirely.
Hungary is the only country that will not accept any refugees, either from amongst those already in the EU or currently in camps outside. Some claim xenophobia is becoming an official part of Budapest policy now, with the government deciding in June to erect a fence along its border with Serbia to stop the flow of migrants.
Slovakia, meanwhile, has done little better, having led the opposition in the region. Bratislava will accept just 100 refugees from Syrian Christian families that it will select itself, Prime Minister Robert Fico announced on July 21.
According to the Slovak PM, the country would have been obliged to accept 1,200 migrants had the EC’s mandatory quotas been adopted, TASR news agency reports.
“We'll select ourselves [these 100 refugees] in Italy and Greece. These families will come to Slovakia, and we'll see whether they'll want to stay. One hundred is the number of people we're ready to accept; this is our contribution to the quota of 40,000 people who've been decided by the EU to be distributed among individual member countries," Fico said.
In addition, 500 refugees will be temporarily relocated to Slovakia from Austria at a facility in Gabcikovo. A memorandum between Austria and Slovakia was signed on July 21. The move has already raised concerns among the inhabitants of the area. Large demonstrations against immigration have been organised by far right parties in recent weeks.
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