European Union member Croatia is from Friday (26 February) limiting the number of migrants entering the country to 580 a day, following a similar decision from Slovenia, and highlighting deep divisions in the bloc over how to handle the migration crisis.
“Slovenia informed us on Thursday evening that they can receive 580 migrants daily and we have informed our colleagues in Serbia about it. We will stick to that figure also,” police spokeswoman Jelena Bikic said.
Austria has already imposed a cap on refugees, drawing sharp criticism from the European Commission. The cap is against EU and international law, the executive said.
Hungary is pressing ahead with plans for a referendum on the EU’s migrant crisis, while Austria and Greece are embroiled in a diplomatic dispute over border controls.
Serbia, which is not an EU member state, said it would follow the decisions of countries further up the Balkans migrant route and limit the numbers entering its territory.
“Like we have done so far, whatever Austria, Slovenia and Croatia do, we will do the same. If they accept only 500 we will let 500 go through Serbia,” an official from the labour ministry, which is in charge of refugees, told AFP.
Countries have begun tightening their controls after Austria introduced a daily cap of 80 asylum-seekers last week and said it would let only 3,200 migrants pass through each day.
European Council President Donald Tusk will visit the Balkan states next week seeking to heal deep divisions over how to tame Europe’s migrant crisis, his office said Friday, with Austria and Greece at loggerheads.
“Migration remains the major issue testing the EU’s unity and ability to respond to an international problem,” Mediterranean foreign ministers from the “Med Group” bloc said after talks in the Cypriot resort of Limassol.
Their meeting came as Athens is embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with Vienna over migration policy, with Athens refusing a visit by Austria’s interior minister whom it accused of “falsifying the truth” over its border control efforts.
The more stringent measures have already left thousands of people stranded in Greece, the main entry point into the EU for most migrants and refugees
Hungary’s justice minister said Friday a planned referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant quota will not happen before August, and that the bloc has no right to force migrants on member states.
“The referendum can take place in around 150 to 250 days,” Laszlo Trocsanyi told a press conference, meaning the ballot will take place some time between August and December.
Trocsanyi said the European Union “did not receive powers to relocate people into a country”, and insisted the referendum – “about an important question affecting sovereignty” – was in line both with Hungary’s constitution and EU law.
The proposed referendum question, awaiting approval from the National Election Committee, will ask, “Do you want the EU to prescribe the mandatory relocation of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the Hungarian parliament?”.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government voted against an EU plan in September to distribute 160,000 asylum-seekers among member states via quotas, and in December joined Slovakia in filing a legal complaint.
So far, only 598 have been relocated, with Hungary not taking a single one. If Hungarian voters reject the quotas in the referendum, as surveys suggest, this would be another blow for the troubled scheme.