Top EU court: eastern states broke law by refusing refugees

Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic broke EU law by failing to accept refugees, rules ECJ

The EU's top court has ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic broke EU law by refusing to take in refugees under an agreement to ease the burden faced by Italy and Greece.

In an emergency move in 2015, European Union nations agreed to relocate up to 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece as those two countries buckled under the number of migrant arrivals.

The eurosceptic, nationalist governments on the EU's eastern flank had cited national security reasons in refusing to take in any of the mostly Muslim refugees and migrants who had fled wars and poverty in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

However, because Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic did not abide by the ruling, only about 40,000 refugees were relocated.

Their refusal to accept migrants led to the European Commission seeking an explanation, but it received no satisfactory reply.

The EU has since cracked down on immigration since 2015, fortifying its external borders and offering support to countries including Turkey to help prevent migrants from heading to Europe.

The European Court of Justice says the three central European countries "failed to fulfil their obligations".

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The three had argued that European Union countries alone are responsible for ensure public safety and not the commission, which drew up the quota scheme and took the countries to court.

Poland and Hungary claimed their right to disobey the obligation arguing that member states are entitled to do so when applying asylum policy might affect law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.

The failure of European Union states to share the burden of the migrant influx sparked of the EU's biggest political crises.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis responded to the judgment on state news agency CTK, saying: "We lost but that's not important - the important thing is we don't have to pay anything".

Varga Judit, Hungary's justice minister, said in response to the ruling that the idea of a migrant resettlement scheme was "unreasonable from the beginning and it was never fully implemented by nearly any country".

The decision underscores Europe's divisions over migration.

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