Poland says it will take 2,000 refugees; politician objects

AP News
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Posted: Jul 10, 2015 8:49 AM
Poland says it will take 2,000 refugees; politician objects

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's offer to accept 2,000 refugees from Africa and the Middle East as part of a European Union plan was thrown into doubt Friday when the junior partner in its coalition government complained of not being consulted.

Deputy Interior Minister Piotr Stachanczyk said Poland made the offer at a meeting Thursday in Luxembourg where EU ministers agreed how to distribute 20,000 refugees being housed outside Europe. So far, EU members haven't managed to agree on how to divide 40,000 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in Italy and Greece.

But Janusz Piechocinski, head of the PSL party, the coalition's junior partner, said the announcement was made without consulting his party. Asked Friday if he would support the plan anyway, Piechocinski, who is also a deputy prime minister, said it would be a "challenge" to absorb the refugees.

After Piechocinski complained, Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said 2,000 was just a preliminary figure and there would be more government talks on the matter. He admitted taking in refugees was a "new challenge" for Poland but said his government wants to show solidarity with the other 27 members of the EU.

Resettling refuges has become an urgent issue for Europe as rising numbers of immigrants make risky boat trips to Europe, fleeing war in Syria, repression in Eritrea and poverty in many other places.

Polish officials fear the country would have trouble absorbing the refugees culturally and economically, given a jobless rate of 11 percent. Poland has already taken in many Ukrainians but the prospect of taking in Muslim refugees is unpopular in this largely Roman Catholic country.

Warsaw balked at an earlier EU quota proposal that would have required Poland to take more than 2,000 refugees.

EU officials will meet again July 20 to discuss the refugee plan.