The Latest: Woman gives birth after sea rescue off Libya
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Latest on the European Court of Justice ruling on relocation of migrants in the EU (all times local):
A Spanish humanitarian group says it has rescued more than 200 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea on smuggler’s flimsy dinghies, including a pregnant woman in labor.
The group, ProActiva Open Arms, said it rescued the migrants hoping to reach Italy about 25 miles north of the Libyan coastal town of al-Khums on Wednesday morning.
Italy is helping Libya’s coast guard intercept the boats of human smugglers.
Militia and security officials recently told The Associated Press that Libya’s struggling government in Tripoli, backed by Italy, also has paid militias implicated in trafficking to choke off the flow of migrant boats.
The woman from Ghana rescued by ProActiva Open Arms gave birth to a baby girl right after she boarded the group’s vessel.
Poland’s prime minister says her country will stick by its refusal to take in refugees even though the European Union’s top court is reasserting its right to force member states to accept asylum-seekers.
Beata Szydlo spoke on Wednesday after the European Court of Justice rejected efforts by Hungary and Slovakia to stay out of an EU scheme meant to relocate refugees from Greece and Italy. Poland backed the Hungarian and Slovak complaint.
Szydlo says she isn’t surprised by the court’s decision, but that it “absolutely does not change the position of the Polish government with respect to migration policy.”
The developments prolong a standoff between the EU members struggling to absorb a large number of asylum-seekers and several Central European nations opposed to accepting migrants.
Hungarian and Polish leaders, in particular, often describe Muslim refugees as potential security threats.
The European Union says the bloc’s migrant agreement with Turkey is working well but that more effort is needed to speed asylum applications.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday that “the EU-Turkey statement continues to work and deliver results.”
He said migrant arrivals in Greece from Turkey had dropped 97 percent since the deal in March last year, and that more than 8,800 Syrians in Turkey had now found homes in Europe.
But the Commission says “significant additional efforts” are needed to cut the asylum application backlog and improve processing in Greece so more people can be returned to Turkey.
Turkey has agreed to stem migrant departures for Greece in return for fast-track EU membership talks, visa-free travel for Turkish systems and at least 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees there.
The European Union’s top migration official says the EU could soon take court action against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland if they do not live up to their obligations to accept refugees like EU nations are doing.
The European Commission has already launched an “infringement procedure” against the three for failing to take, or not recently accepting, some of the thousands of refugees who have arrived in Italy and Greece over the last two years.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday if the three did not act “in coming weeks” the Commission should consider taking “the last step in the infringement procedure, to refer Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to the European Court of Justice.”
Slovakia is not included in the legal action. It recently agreed to host a few refugees.
Slovakia’s prime minister says he and his government respects a decision by a European court that has rejected legal complaints by Slovakia and Hungary against a European Union plan to relocate refugees.
Robert Fico told reporters on Wednesday “we fully respect the verdict of the European Court of Justice.” But he also said his country’s critical stance on the quota system and the migrants “has not changed at all.”
Fico says the 2015 plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over two years was a temporary solution that will cease to be effective on Sept 26. He says he believes his country doesn’t face any sanctions from the EU over its stance.
Germany’s foreign minister is welcoming the ruling by a European Union court that Hungary and Slovakia must participate in an EU plan to relocate refugees. He says he expects all EU countries to implement the decision “without further hesitation.”
Sigmar Gabriel said Wednesday the European Court of Justice’s ruling confirms that the solidarity approved by EU leaders is not just in keeping with European values but also adheres fully to European law. He said “solidarity is not a one-way street.”
Gabriel added: “We can also expect now, and we do expect, that all European partners will keep to the verdict and implement the decisions without further hesitation.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says the ruling by the European Court of Justice rejecting his country’s and Slovakia’s attempt to stay out of an EU plan to relocate asylum-seekers is “outrageous and irresponsible.”
Szijjarto said that the court decision puts at risk Europe’s security and future. He called it a political decision and vowed that Hungary would continue to challenge EU efforts to force countries into taking in migrants.
Szijjarto said Hungary will continue to put emphasis on the defense of the EU’s external borders and said it is time for the EU to abandon the “unsuccessful” relocation scheme.
EU lawmakers are welcoming a court ruling rejecting an appeal by Hungary and Slovakia against the European Union’s flagship refugee-sharing scheme.
Lead parliamentarian on the scheme Ska Keller said Wednesday that the ruling means “there is no excuse” for EU states not to share refugees from Greece and Italy as they have committed to do.
She said that “leaders such as (Hungarian Prime Minister) Viktor Orban cannot demand more money for border protection, while blocking the reception of refugees from Greece and Italy.”
Claude Moraes, chairman of the Civil Liberties Committee dealing with migration, said “we urgently need to have in place an organized and compassionate response” to the plight of refugees.
He said the slow pace of relocation “draws attention to significant gaps in the EU’s response to the biggest refugee crisis on the continent since World War II.”
Human rights group Amnesty International is welcoming a ruling by the European Court of Justice against Hungary and Slovakia on the relocation of asylum-seekers, saying they have been trying to turn their countries into “refugee-free zones.”
The group’s EU office director, Iverna McGowan, said Wednesday that “Slovakia and Hungary have tried to dodge the EU’s system for solidarity, but each country has a role to play in protecting people fleeing violence and persecution.”
She called on EU nations to “show solidarity with each other, and with asylum-seekers who are seeking protection in Europe.”
EU countries agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees in Greece and Italy over two years, but only about 24,000 have been relocated so far.
Hungary and Slovakia were seeking to have the decision annulled.
The European Court of Justice says it has rejected efforts by Hungary and Slovakia to stay out of a European Union scheme meant to relocate refugees.
The court said Wednesday that it had “dismissed in its entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary.”
EU countries agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees in Greece and Italy over two years. Only around 24,000 people have been relocated so far.
The program is considered a key part of the EU’s migration policy.
Hungary and Poland voted against the plan and have refused to take part, while so far Slovakia has accepted only a handful of refugees from Greece.