EU BOSSES launched legal proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland yesterday for their refusal to take in designated shares of refugees.
Most refugees fleeing war and genocide in the Middle East have arrived in Greece or Italy, and the EU proposal to relocate 160,000 of them among other member states was agreed in 2015.
But three months from the agreed completion date of the relocation project this September, just 20,869 refugees have been resettled — and the three offending countries “have not been taking any refugees at all,” according to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
The three could technically end up being fined.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia all voted against the programme to begin with, while Poland has become embroiled in a multifaceted struggle with Brussels over attacks on its judiciary and curbs of citizens’ rights by its far-right Law and Justice government.
The relocations were a major plank of the EU’s response to the refugee crisis — with its other main element being a deal with Turkey, which agreed to let Brussels deport all people arriving irregularly on Greece, including asylum-seekers, to its territory.
In return Turkey was to receive €6 billion (£5.2bn) in assistance for the more than a million Syrian refugees in the country as well as sweeteners such as visa-free travel to the EU for Turkish citizens, which has yet to be granted.
The agreement continues to deliver “effective management of migratory flows,” according to the EU — although 2016 proved the deadliest year for refugees on record with an estimated 5,000 perishing in the Mediterranean.
Critics say the deal was responsible for a massive rise in the mortality rate — with one in 88 dying in the attempt to reach Europe compared with one in 269 just a year before — because the closure of the route across the Aegean to Greece caused more people to take the riskier Libya-Italy journey.
It has also been criticised as Turkey is not widely considered a safe country for refugees, with the government waging a war on its Kurdish minority and there has been a significant rise in terrorist attacks.