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News 19 Jan 16

Wary Romanians Await First Refugees from EU Quota

Romania is to receive its first refugees next month under EU mandatory quotas, but the majority of the population is still opposed to taking in any of them.

Marian Chiriac

Romanian border police detained a large group of migrants at the weekend. | Photo: Politia de Frontiera

The first 300 refugees will arrive in Romania in early February under the EU-imposed quota aimed at easing Europe’s refugee crisis – despite continued opposition from the Romanian public.

“The first ones, around 300, will come from Italy early next month, and then their number will increase by 50 every month,” said Mircea Mocanu, chief of the International Organisation for Migration for Romania. 

“The government is ready to accommodate them, there is money for this,” Mocanu added. 

Romania is to receive around 4,200 refugees in total, according to a decision made by EU interior ministers in September. Some 120,000 refugees from the Middle East and north Africa are to be taken in by the EU’s 28 countries under the scheme. 

Bucharest is still against mandatory quotas, but officials have said that the country could manage the number of refugees that the EU is planning to relocate to Romania. 

"I still believe the mandatory quotas are not a solution to Europe's migrant crisis. But the number of refugees Romania must receive is not large. It is manageable and I think Romania must show solidarity,” President Klaus Iohannis said in September.

Romania is to open three new centres for refugees, in addition to the existing six centres, which have a total capacity for only 1,500 places, according to official data. 

A recent opinion poll have suggested that more than half of Romanians, 56.2 per cent, believe that Romania should not accept any refugees, and only 35 per cent agree with letting in some immigrants.

However, 82 per cent of those who think that Romania should receive refugees say that the country should establish its own quota and not be forced to accept a figure set by the European Union.

Less than 15 per cent believe that Romania should accept the number of refugees demanded by the EU, according to the survey by INSCOP polling agency released last month.

As yet, Romania has not been hit by the wave of refugees and migrants crossing the Balkans towards Western Europe. Only 913 people applied for asylum last year, 12 per cent more than in 2014.

However the border authorities said on Saturday that they had detained 60 people who were trying to enter illegally across Romania's south-west border from Serbia, the largest such group in recent years.

The migrants, aged between 20 and 40, came from Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Morocco. Border police detected them using heat-sensor equipment.

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