Czechs, Slovaks latest to slam Greece on refugee crisis

27 January 2016
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The Czech Republic and Slovakia on Tuesday criticised Greece’s handling of the refugee crisis and urged the fellow EU member to tighten its borders with Bulgaria and FYROM to staunch the influx of people.

The central European countries were the latest to turn up the pressure after Austria and Germany urged Greece – the landing point for most migrants arriving in Europe – to do more to tackle the crisis at an EU meeting Monday.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka accused Greece of failing to protect the exterior borders of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.

“If Greece and Turkey fail to protect the outer border and we are unable to cope with strong migrant pressure, we will have to discuss a plan B,” he said following talks with Slovak counterpart Robert Fico in Slovakia.

He said the EU could boost the protection of Greece’s border with non-EU FYROM, or between Bulgaria and Greece.

Fico added: “FYROM and Bulgaria may play a key role in protecting the Schengen border. Then it won’t matter whether Greece will or will not be a part of Schengen.”

The European Commission said on Tuesday it may eventually allow the 26 Schengen member states to reintroduce border checks for up to two years to cope with the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

An extension of border controls has in turn sparked concerns that Greece could effectively be frozen out of Schengen.

Sobotka tweeted on Tuesday that he has invited fellow central European ex-communist countries Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the rest of the so-called Visegrad Four, to a special summit on the migrant crisis on February 15.

The Visegrad Four have rejected the EU’s quota plan for distributing migrants across the continent, insisting instead on tighter Schengen border controls and other steps to reduce the migrant influx.

More than one million people reached Europe in 2015, most of them refugees fleeing war and violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

But few asylum-seekers have chosen to stay in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, while Hungary last year built a fence to deflect a migrant wave heading from the Balkans westwards to wealthier EU members such as Germany.

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