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PM says migration quotas are dead, defends deal with Turkey

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Prague, Sept 13 (CTK) – Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told lawmakers yesterday that the migrant quotas for redistribution of migrants across the EU are dead and he defended the March EU-Turkey deal which, he said, has helped lower the refugee pressure on Europe.
Sobotka said the Czech Republic is not the target country of migrants and that it is not even a part of any of their main routes.
Lawmakers for the opposition Communists (KSCM), the Civic Democrats (ODS) and Dawn criticised Sobotka’s speech. They called for drafting a joint Czech position on dealing with the migrant crisis and rejected the EU-Turkish deal.
Sobotka reacted saying the Czech Republic proceeded completely pragmatically.
He said 995 people applied for asylum in the country and 132 of them were granted it by the end of July.
“Ukrainians have long been the strongest group of asylum applicants,” Sobotka said.
One hundred and seven people stayed in detention facilities as from the end of August, he said.
Sobotka said the EU-Turkey agreement has restricted migration to Europe. In August 2015, more than 100,000 people crossed the Greek border from Turkey. Last August, there were only 2800 migrants.
Despite administrative problems, the returning of people with no claim to asylum has started, Sobotka said.
“This is always a better solution than facing the pressure of hundreds of thousands of people,” Sobotka said about the agreement.
He also came out in favour of signing similar deals with other states, from which immigrants are coming to Europe.
Sobotka said Turkey has not fulfilled the conditions of visa-free relations, which are part of the deal, but rather on the contrary.
The Czech Chamber of Deputies previously rejected the abolition of visas for Turks.
The Czech Republic is one of the countries that insist on the fulfilment of the conditions, Sobotka said.
Sobotka said the number of countries seeking changes to the European asylum policy has been decreasing. Sobotka spoke about the European countries’ “flexible solidarity.”
He said countries should find their own forms of measures to deal with the migrant crisis. There are countries which have no problems with accepting refugees, there are countries which do not have any problems with providing money in aid of migrants from non-European countries, and there are countries which do not have any problems with providing police to guard the outer border of the EU, Sobotka said.
One of these countries is the Czech Republic.
The inclusion of the debate on immigration in the agenda of the Chamber of Deputies’ session was pushed through by Zdenek Soukup (ANO), who initiated a platform in defence of European culture and values.
Reacting to Sobotka’ s speech, KSCM chairman Vojtech Filip said the outer Schengen border is not protected and warned of the creation of internal borders which would lead to the disintegration of the EU.
He said he would like to know how the Czech Republic will contribute within NATO and the EU to that the causes of the crisis are primarily solved.
ODS chairman Petr Fiala said it is important that the Czech Republic took a united stance on the migrant crisis and called on Sobotka to convoke a debate of leading political representatives which would give the government a stronger mandate in negotiations on European issues.
Dawn chairman Marek Cernoch said the deal with Turkey is nothing but blackmail and that possible visa-free relations with Turkey would give Islamic radicals visa-free access to Europe.
ms/dr/rtj

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