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EU refugee controversy heats up

September 23, 2015

EU leaders will be meeting after a contentious vote to relocate 120,000 refugees in frontline countries. The summit comes amid reports of legal proceedings against 19 countries for violating EU asylum legislation.

refugees at Serbian-Hungarian border
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Ruzsa

EU leaders on Wednesday will be attending an emergency summit on the refugee crisis embroiling Europe, at which they are expected to discuss strengthening the EU's external borders and boost aid to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and relief agencies.

The summit follows Tuesday's vote on a plan to redistribute 120,000 refugees to ease pressure off of frontline countries struggling to cope with the mass influx of migrants and asylum seekers.

The plan was passed by a large majority, breaking unity among EU nations, which tend to vote unanimously.

Europe divided

Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic voted against the plan, which seeks to redistribute 66,000 refugees in Greece and Italy across the 28-nation bloc, with another 54,000 asylum seekers being relocated in a year's time.

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec called the decision "an empty political gesture" after the eastern European countries lost the vote to a majority backing the quota system.

"It's a bad decision, and the Czech Republic did all it could to block it," said Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said his country would rather breach the plan "than accept such a dictate."

Meanwhile, the decision was deemed necessary by Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"If we had not done this, Europe would have been even more divided," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters at a press conference following the vote.

Violating asylum legislation

German periodical "die Welt" reported on Wednesday that the European Commission will be filing 40 infringement proceedings against 19 EU countries for violating EU asylum legislation.

The countries, which include Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Hungary, are being accused of not having "adequately implemented" asylum procedures.

Denmark, Ireland and the UK were reported to be exempt from the legal proceedings since they do not abide by EU asylum legislation.

The violations include not maintaining the minimum standards for asylum procedures and inadequate reception of refugees.

Europe is struggling to deal with the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with more than 210,000 having applied for asylum in the EU within the second quarter of 2015, up 85% compared to the year before.

Germany is expecting 800,000 refugees in 2015.

ls/rg (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)