EU agrees deal to fine countries $21,000 for each migrant they refuse to take

Commissioner hails 'hugely significant' agreement in sharing hosting but Hungary says it is 'unacceptable'

Migrants who crossed the Mediterranean wait to board a boat from the Italian island of Lampedusa. AFP
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EU ministers have agreed a deal on hosting unauthorised migrants, under which countries must pay €20,000 ($21,000) to a Brussels fund for each asylum seeker they refuse to take.

The agreement was announced late on Thursday after interior ministers from the 27 EU countries gathered in Luxembourg. Poland and Hungary voted against the proposals, while Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained.

It was hailed as a “hugely significant step” by European interior affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday criticised the deal, accusing Brussels of wanting to “forcefully turn Hungary into a migrant country”.

But Budapest's protests are likely to hold little sway, as the agreement required only approval from a majority of countries representing at least 65 per cent of the EU’s population.

The deal calls for compulsory help between EU members.

Its priority is for EU countries to share the hosting of asylum seekers, many of whom arrive in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy. Six hundred migrants were rescued off Italy last week.

Member states that refuse to take in asylum seekers will have to pay €20,000 for each person into a fund managed by Brussels.

Boat with 400 migrants adrift between Greece and Malta

The boat in distress with about 400 people on board is pictured in Central Mediterranean in this handout obtained by Reuters on April 10, 2023.  Giacomo Zorzi/ Sea-Watch/Handout via REUTERS    THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.  NO RESALES.  NO ARCHIVES.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser hailed the agreement as one of the bloc’s “historic decisions”.

But Hungary accused Brussels of forcing the deal through without proper discussion and pro-migrant countries pressuring others.

“Brussels is abusing its power,” Mr Orban wrote on social media on Friday morning.

“They want to relocate migrants to Hungary with force. This is unacceptable, they want to forcefully turn Hungary into a migrant country.”

Hungary's Deputy Interior Minister Bence Retvari accused the EU of “eliminating [member states'] say in who resides in their territories”.

He told Hungarian state news agency MTI on Friday that the deal would “basically allow illegal migrants or the human traffickers who brought them to Europe to decide themselves who will live in Europe”.

Mr Retvari slammed the process that led to the deal being passed, saying some of the proposals had been distributed “minutes, at most half an hour” ahead of the votes on Thursday.

He added that “pro-migration governments” had “pressured” their fellow member states to approve the terms.

Under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italy has introduced measures aimed at discouraging migrants from crossing in small boats.

Campaigners involved in rescue missions told The National Ms Meloni's policies risked endangering human lives.

Updated: June 09, 2023, 12:32 PM