ECJ rejects Slovakia, Hungary refugee challenge

August to be rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit Angelos Tzortzinis  Agence France Presse — Getty Ima

The court noted the small number of relocations so far is due to factors that the European Union could not have foreseen, including "the lack of co-operation on the part of certain member states".

Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are also facing legal action by the EU executive, the European Commission, for their inaction over the relocation of asylum seekers.

The long-awaited ruling added: "The mechanism actually contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis". Slovakia and Hungary filed a complaint [text] arguing that it was illegal for Brussels to require them to take in hundreds of Syrian refugees and that it would destabilize their economies.

A further programme for resettling people directly from outside the European Union has also struggled to hit targets for taking in asylum-seekers.

To date, approximately 27,000 of the eligible refugees have now been relocated.

Malta, Latvia and also Norway have taken in their full quota of refugees from Greece.

The European Commission has already launched an "infringement procedure" against the three nations for failing to take, or not recently accepting, refugees who have arrived in Italy and Greece in the last two years.

Czech Republic has not relocated anyone since August 2016.

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The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an advocate for asylum-seekers, urged Hungary to give refugees an opportunity to make their case for asylum.

The verdict was welcomed by top European officials.

"The existence of those various adjustment mechanisms shows that the relocation mechanism for which the contested decision provides, taken as a whole, enables account to be taken, in a proportionate manner, of the particular situation of each Member State in this regard", the ruling states.

"It is right to clarify questions legally if there is doubt".

"We will continue to work on having solidarity expressed in different ways other than forcing migrants [on Slovakia] from other countries that don't want to be here anyway".

Yet, Hungary strongly condemned the ECJ's verdict.

Mr Szijjarto called the decision "outrageous and irresponsible" and, echoing the view of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, he said it "jeopardises the security and future of all of Europe".

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".

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In mid-September 2015, Hungary closed off its southern border first with Serbia and later with Croatia with a fence protected by razor wire.

The EU has agreed to examine the request, though how Hungary reached the precise figure remains unclear.

Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto slammed Wednesday's ruling - which is final an can not be appealed - calling it "appalling and irresponsible" and vowed to use all legal means against the judgement, which he said was "the result of a political decision".

Poland initially supported the mandatory quotas but now, with its new right-wing government, is against it. He added: 'The real battle is only just beginning'.

The programme is considered a key part of the EU's migration policy.

The EU's highest court on Wednesday rejected Hungary and Slovakia's objections to a European-wide migration relocation scheme, laying bare an east-west split among EU member states.

Slovakia is not included in the legal action.

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