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Migrant crisis talks: No agreement on quotas until next month

Ministers have been holding emergency talks in Brussels today.

Updated 10.31pm

EU MINISTERS ARE set to reach broad agreement on relocating 160,000 asylum seekers, but were unable to seal a crucial deal this evening on binding quotas for how they should be shared out.

Interior ministers have been holding emergency talks in Brussels to discuss plans unveiled last week by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to redistribute refugees from overstretched Greece, Italy and Hungary.

“Yes, not everyone is on board at the moment,” Luxembourg minister Jean Asselborn told a press conference in Brussels after an emergency meeting.

He said however that there was a “large majority” in favour of the redistribution in principle, and they would return to the issue in October.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos added:

For our proposal on 120,000 we did not have the agreement we wanted.

Austria Hungary Migrants A girl looks through the fence while she and other refugees wait for buses in Nickelsdorf, Austria, yesterday. Source: Ronald Zak

Commenting on the outcome of today’s Council Minister Fitzgerald said: “This is a humanitarian crisis which has continued to escalate and to which there are no simple answers.”

No one State can deal with this issue on their own and a coherent EU-wide response is needed. I have made it clear to our EU partners that Ireland will work closely and collaboratively with them.

Many member states, particularly those in eastern Europe, have opposed mandatory quotas as they face populist parties exploiting anti-immigrant sentiment.

An EU source told AFP on the condition of anonymity meanwhile that the home affairs and justice ministers from the council of 28 member states were heading toward clinching “a political agreement” on the 120,000.

“This is a very good sign. It is not important how we get there,” the source said, apparently playing down the need for quotas.

The ministers failed in July to agree on a May plan to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy over the next two years, instead settling on voluntary pledges to share the burden of 32,000 people. At the time many opposed quotas.

However, the ministers formally agreed today to launch the plan for the 40,000, and make up the remaining pledges by the end of the year.

EU sources have said they hope to start relocating the first 20,000 from Wednesday of this week.

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he ministers were discussing plans unveiled last week by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to redistribute 120,000 refugees from overstretched Greece, Italy and Hungary.

The plans face fierce opposition from many eastern European member states.

Slovak interior minister Robert Kalinak said his country, the Czech Republic and others refused to back the plan, and called for a summit of EU leaders.

“There was no consensus, several countries disagreed. It was not only us or the Czech Republic, but other countries as well,” he was quoted as saying by the Czech news agency CTK.

“When other interior ministers also say this issue is about the European Union, it is up to the European countries’ leaders to talk about it. This is crucial in my opinion.”

Last week, Juncker gave a passionate speech where he told EU members about the plans to relocate 160,000 people.

He appealed to countries to think of their own history of seeking refuge, asking them to put themselves in the shoes of people fleeing countries like Syria or Eritrea.

There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not go to sail, no border you would not cross if it is a war of barbarism and so-called Islamic State that you are fleeing.

Ireland’s response

Last Thursday, it was announced that Ireland will take in 4,000 people as part of its response to the crisis.

At a special Cabinet meeting, Ministers signed off on the Irish Refugee Protection Programme which will see reception and orientation centres set up around the country.

This scheme will provide a “safe haven” for an extra 2,900 “persons seeking international protection”.

It is expected that refugees in groups of 50 or 100 will start to arrive  to Ireland within weeks.

Includes reporting from Aoife Barry, Daragh Brophy, and Nicky Ryan.

Read: ‘There are more O’Neills and Murphys living in the US than in Ireland’>

Read: “My toes hurt, a lot of blood, we walked too much” – Pain along the long trek to Europe>

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