Poland to accept 2,000 migrants from Syria, North Africa

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Syrian refugees look through a window inside a refugee centre as they wait for a distribution of humanitarian aid by volunteers of the Bulgarian Red Cross. File photo

Poland has agreed to accept 2,000 migrants from Syria and North Africa by 2017, Poland’s ministry of internal affairs said on Thursday, as part of the European Union’s plan to relocate refugees around the bloc and mitigate the migration crisis in its southern states.

“The deputy minister declared today during an informal meeting with his counterparts in Luxembourg that Poland would be ready to host 2.000 people by 2017,” the ministry’s spokeswoman Malgorzata Wozniak said.

“Our goal is to show solidarity with other EU countries, solidarity which Poland has experienced before.”

Poland, along with several other central and eastern European countries, had rejected the mandatory migrants quota proposed earlier by the European Commission.

Meanwhile, Some 50 Christian families fleeing war in Syria have arrived in Poland to begin new lives.

A chartered plane from Beirut carrying about 150 refugees landed in Warsaw late Friday. The Syrians are being taken to a hotel, and within days they will begin the process of requesting asylum and being placed in housing.

A few spoke to reporters, but they refused to be photographed or filmed, fearful of putting loved ones back home at more risk.

Poland’s decision to take in the refugees, who hail mostly from Damascus and other cities, is a humanitarian gesture by predominantly Catholic Poland in the face of a massive humanitarian crisis in Syria. However, the decision to accept only Christians for now has faced some criticism as being discriminatory against Muslims.

In June, EU leaders endorsed ways to counter the migration crisis in the Mediterranean by sharing 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers over the next two years, but failed to decide precise national commitments to take people in.

According to a plan to be considered at a meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, 20,000 refugees would be resettled in Europe directly from their countries of origin or transit, such as Syrians escaping war or displaced in Lebanon or Jordan.

Another 40,000 asylum seekers already in Italy and Greece would be transferred to other EU countries.

Reuters, AP 

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