Czech Republic puts the brakes on EU refugee relocations

European Commission wants EU member states to each admit a quota from a total of 160,000 asylum seekers, the Czech Republic will stop taking refugees and will defend itself against any EU penalties.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A Czech policewoman, who is supporting the Macedonia authorities, tries to secure a door as Afghan refugees push it at the Greek-Macedonia borderline near the northern Greek village of Idomeni. (File photo)

Czech government announced on Monday that it will stop taking refugees under an EU scheme to share asylum seekers who arrived in Greece and Italy, citing security concerns.

Under a plan agreed in 2015, the European Commission wants EU member states to each admit a quota from a total of 160,000 asylum seekers stuck in the two Mediterranean countries.

"Due to the aggravated security situation and the dysfunctionality of the whole system, the government approved a proposal to halt this system for the Czech Republic," Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.

"That means the Czech Republic will not be asking for migrants to be relocated from Greece and Italy."

It will take no more before the plan expires in September, Chovanec said.

By last month, the Czech Republic has only taken in a dozen out of the 2,691 migrants set by its quota, according to news agency CTK.

In this file Czech Republic's Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, left, talks to his Slovakian counterpart Robert Kalinak, right, during a press conference in 2016. Slovakia has also challenged the quotas. Picture: AP

Chovanec said his ministry would coordinate the defence of any EU action against the Czech Republic related to the decision.

Most of Czechs oppose taking people from Muslim countries.

Immigration is a sensitive topic in the Czech Republic as the country will hold an election in October.

EU members challenge the quota 

Several EU members including the Czech Republic have protested the quota decision and some have refused to take in any people under the scheme.

Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have refused to admit any asylum seekers under the scheme.

Slovakia and Hungary have challenged the quotas in an EU court.

The European Commission has said it would decide in June on any legal cases against countries failing to take in their share of refugees and other migrants.

The EU took in some 1.6 million people in 2014-2016.

Greece has seen numbers drop after the bloc sealed a deal with Turkey to cut off arrivals transiting through that country.

But Italy is facing increased arrivals from Libya.

The relocation scheme has fallen far short of what was planned with fewer than 18,500 people relocated so far.