European Union refugee ruling: Hungary and Slovakia must stick or twist

2015 after the border was blocked by the Hungarian border police. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New Y

2015 after the border was blocked by the Hungarian border police. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New Y

"The court dismisses the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the provisional mechanism for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers", the Luxembourg-based court said.

European Union countries agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees in Greece and Italy over two years.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the current system of quotas for resettling refugees is proportionate, amid protests by east European states that cite culture clashes and terrorist attacks.

"Today's ruling shows that no country can hide from their responsibilities to refugees". Slovakia has recently agreed to accept a few refugees, so it's not included in that action.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has made migrants a key political issue since early 2015 and ahead of the parliamentary election expected in April 2018.

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The EU's relocation plan - which expires on September 26 - has not been fully executed, in no small part because of some member states' reluctance to accept migrants.

The fences have mostly stopped refugees from passing through Hungary on their way to western Europe but Hungary has also greatly reduced the chances for asylum seekers to submit applications for protection in the country.

The decision upholds the union's right to force member states to take in refugees.

The European Commission, the EU executive, welcomed the ECJ ruling.

The court statement said Poland intervened in support of Hungary during the proceedings, while the European Commission, along with Greece, Italy, Germany, Sweden and several other member states, argued for the relocation plan.

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The European Court of Justice, the 28-nation bloc's top court, threw out the challenge from Hungary and Slovakia against a scheme Brussels launched two years ago to ease the burden on overstretched Greece and Italy.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 125,860 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year. That's less than half the number who arrived during the same time period a year ago. More than 2,500 people have died on the Mediterranean journey, the group said.

Mr Orban has made the fight against immigration and what he calls European Union meddling the key planks of his bid for re-election next year, and he has found allies in a Warsaw government that is clashing with Brussels over its push to exert more control over the judiciary, media and other areas of Polish life.

The EU's migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the court's decision was an opportunity to end in-fighting between member states.

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