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EU Ministers Vote To Relocate 120,000 Refugees Across Member States


The European Union has agreed to relocate 120,000 more refugees, spreading them across its member countries. Four Eastern European states vehemently oppose the move. Refugee advocates give the agreement a qualified welcome. They say an even more ambitious plan is needed to deal with more than 400,000 people who've arrived on European shores so far this year. From Brussels, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has this report.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: This is the worst refugee crisis to face Europe since the end of World War II. Many of the interior ministers agreed with their German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, that it was urgent for them not to come up empty-handed.


THOMAS DE MAIZIERE: It's unacceptable if Europe sends the message to the Europeans and the world that today there is no possible solution.

NELSON: Even so, four Eastern countries in the bloc - Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania - voted against the proposal, a rarity in a group that usually acts by consensus. But European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said now that a plan had been adopted, it was time for member states to fall in line or face infringement proceedings.


FRANS TIMMERMANS: We are capable of taking decisions, even if, for some member states, these are very difficult decisions to take. The refugee crisis can be brought under control. But it will take a tremendous amount of effort. It will take a long time.

NELSON: The UNHCR agreed. Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said that the relocation program alone can't stabilize the situation, given four times as many people as the EU ministers voted on today have arrived on European shores this year. UNHCR is calling for a speeding up relocation and integration efforts and a humane return of people not entitled to sanctuary. The latter is likely to be brought up at tomorrow's EU leader summit here. They will also look at how best to tighten up borders and increase aid for refugees to discourage them from coming to Europe. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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