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UPDATE: Poland broke EU law by refusing to take in refugees: adviser to top court

31.10.2019 14:20
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to fulfil their legal obligations by refusing to take in refugees from states under pressure in the EU’s migration crisis, an adviser to the bloc’s top court said on Thursday.
Pixabay License
Pixabay License Image by succo from Pixabay

Government spokesman Piotr Müller responded by saying Poland had acted to ensure security for its citizens when it refused to accept any refugees as part of an EU programme to relocate migrants fleeing the war-torn Middle East and Africa. 

The programme was a response to the migration crisis that hit Europe in the summer of 2015, and aimed to reduce the strain on refugee camps in Italy and Greece.

“By refusing to comply with the provisional and time-limited mechanism for the mandatory relocation of applicants for international protection, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have failed to fulfil their obligations under EU law,” the Advocate General to the Court of Justice of the European Union, Eleanor Sharpston, said on Thursday.

Sharpston rejected arguments by Warsaw, Prague and Budapest that they refused to accept refugees because they were obliged to maintain security and public order.

Sharpston said: “These Member States cannot invoke their responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security in order to disapply a valid EU measure with which they disagree.”

Security of Polish citizens comes first: gov't spokesman

But Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller responded that Warsaw’s decision was justified under the treaty governing the way the EU works.

He said: "The most important goal of government policy is to ensure security for our citizens. Our actions were dictated by the interests of Polish citizens and defending [the country] against uncontrolled migration.”

Müller added that thanks to the “tough attitude” of Poland and the Visegrad Group, a regional cooperation platform, “the entire European Union changed its approach to migration policy and moved away from the mandatory relocation of refugees."

In September 2015, EU leaders decided that member states should accept a quota of migrants over two years to alleviate the pressure on Greece and Italy. EU leaders agreed to relocate a total of about 160,000 migrants. Poland was allocated some 7,000. 

But the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government in Warsaw said that migrants posed a security threat.

The relocation scheme was supposed to be implemented over two years.

Towards the end of 2017, even though the programme had run its course, the European Commission brought lawsuits against Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, arguing that their refusal to accept refugees was a breach of EU law.

(pk)

Source: PAP/IAR