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Overcoming opposition, EU approves plan to relocate 120,000 migrants

Ban Ki-Moon appealed to leaders across the 28-nation bloc, urging them to “show leadership and compassion”.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 6:30pm

EU INTERIOR MINISTERS today approved by a “large majority” a plan to relocate 120,000 refugees around the bloc but only after overriding fierce opposition from central and eastern European countries.

“Decision on relocation for 120,000 persons adopted today, by large majority of member states,” the EU’s Luxembourg presidency said in a tweet.

“We, Slovaks, Romanians, Hungarians against, and Finland abstained. The resolution was accepted,” Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said in a separate tweet.

Irish response

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said today that she intends to seek Dáil and Seanad approval to formally opt into the plan next week.

Ireland has already committed to accepting up to 4,000 persons in need of international protection, including the 520 programme refugees currently being resettled in Ireland directly from refugee camps.

“At today’s meeting I stressed the need to show the world that the EU can act in a swift and decisive manner on an issue of such importance,” Fitzgerald said.

Unfortunately it was not possible to achieve a consensus but the vast majority of member states were in favour of the measure and it has been adopted by a majority vote.  

Sweeping anti-migrant powers

The meeting came a day after Hungary said it was broadening the military’s powers to block the entry of migrants seeking passage to northern Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already made it into western Europe this year, heaping pressure on countries along the migrant trail, some of whom have closed their borders, while others have sought to divert the flow elsewhere.

After sealing off its southern border with Serbia last week and passing a series of tough new anti-migrant laws, Hungary on Monday approved further legislation allowing the army to participate in border control.

It also gave troops the right to use rubber bullets, tear gas and net guns at the border “in a non-lethal way, unless it cannot be avoided”.

Greece Migrants Source: AP/Press Association Images

Last week, other legislation came into force allowing Hungary to jail anyone caught crossing the border illegally, which carries a maximum fine of five years in prison.

Migrants are “overrunning” Europe, with the continent’s borders and way of life under threat, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told MPs.

“They’re not just banging on the door, they’re breaking the door down on top of us.

“Our borders are in danger, our way of life built on respect for the law, Hungary and the whole of Europe is in danger.”

Bank Ki-moon appeal

On the eve of today’s meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to leaders across the 28-nation bloc, urging them to “show leadership and compassion” as the continent grapples with the wave of migrants, many of them refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

He said he was “extremely concerned” about the deteriorating situation, with European borders being closed, the lack of proper facilities to receive newcomers and the increased use of detention against them.

And Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for responsibility to be shared, saying “otherwise there is no point in talking about a united Europe”.

© – AFP 2015

First published at 8:33am

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Read: ‘They’re overrunning us’ – Hungary PM as army gets sweeping anti-migrant powers

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