Poland and Hungary are to be issued with an ultimatum by the EU to accept their allocated quota of refugees or “face consequences, both financial and political” according to a report in The Times newspaper. The plan to distribute 160,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East throughout the member states of the EU was adopted by the European Commission at the height of the refugee crisis in late 2015. Under the plan, each state was given a quota for the number of migrants it had to accept. The policy has met with strong opposition from the so-called Visegrad group comprised of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, who have rejected the mandatory imposition of quotas, arguing that countries should be allowed to opt out of taking any refugees if they offer other means of support instead. To date, neither Hungary nor Poland have accepted any of the refugees allocated to them under the scheme. The European Court of Justice is due to hold a hearing on the legality of the migrant quotas in the coming weeks.
A senior diplomatic source who spoke to The Times was quoted as saying, “We are confident that the ECJ will confirm validation, then they (Poland and Hungary) must abide by the decision. If they don’t then they will face consequences, both financial and political. No more opt-outs. There is no more ‘one foot in and one foot out’. We are going to be very tough on this.”
Last year Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban held a referendum on the resettlement plan, which was rejected by 98% of voters, but invalidated because turnout failed to reach the 50% threshold. In March, Hungary began detaining asylum seekers arriving on its southern border with Serbia in camps composed of shipping containers, in a move condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations. According to the Hungarian interior ministry the measures were put in place to “prevent migrants with an unclear status from moving freely around the territory of the country and the European Union, and to thereby reduce the security risk of migration.”
Beata Szydlo, the Euro-sceptic prime minister of Poland – which is not on the migrant transit route and so doesn’t face the same immediate pressures as Hungary – made headlines last month when she linked the terror attack on the Houses of Parliament in London to the EU’s migrant policy. Speaking on Polish TV and referring to a visit by the EU’s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Szydlo said, “The commissioner is coming to Warsaw and trying to tell us: you have to do what the EU decided, you have to take these migrants …. Two days later another terrorist attack in London occurs.” It has since emerged that the attacker was born in Britain as Adrian Russell Elms, later changing his name to Khalid Masood.
The EJC decision on the legality of the migrant quotas is expected in the Autumn.