Andrej Babis Prime Minister Czech Republic

Matt Atlas

Migrants Should Be Returned To Their Home Countries: Babis

Migrants entering the European Union should be stopped and turned back to their home countries, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in Brussels ahead of negotiations surrounding a new EU migration plan next week.

“We have to change the system of grants and the quota system, it’s unacceptable for us. . . . The people coming from these countries, they should be stopped and turned back to their countries and be given help there,” Babis said.

On the European Commission’s new migration proposal, it is positive that it does not contain mandatory quotas for refugees’ reception, Babis said after talks with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. According to him, the Czechia will discuss the details of the proposal with other countries. Babis stated that the Czech Republic, like Poland and Hungary, intends to promote strengthening the European Union’s external borders.

On Wednesday, the commission published a long-awaited proposal for a new asylum and migration policy, which envisages a significant acceleration of asylum procedures and unsuccessful applicants’ return. According to him, all member states will have to participate in solidarity in managing migration. Still, they will be given a choice to accept asylum seekers or take care of rejected migrants’ deportation.

“On the positive side, there are no quotas, that’s very important to us. As well as the possibility for individual member states to support in solidarity, but to choose how,” Babiš said after the meeting at the seat of the European Commission. The Czech Prime Minister spoke with the EU executive head with his colleagues from Poland and Hungary, Mateusz Morawiecký and Viktor Orbán. According to the EU Court, all three countries have long refused to accept refugees and have not joined the previous system of mandatory quotas, violating their obligations.

Even before the meeting, Babiš said Czechia disagrees with the commission’s proposal, as it does not focus much on the fight against human smugglers. After meeting with the head of the commission, he softened his words. According to him, the Czech Republic intends to continue to strive for greater emphasis on protecting external borders and will try to ensure that the EU assesses refugees before they travel to Europe.

The Czech Prime Minister did not say directly whether Prague would be willing to organize the return of migrants, for example, from Greece, to avoid the long-rejected option of accepting asylum seekers. According to the commission’s proposal, rejected migrants could stay in the countries’ territory to which they came and from where they would be returned for up to eight months.

Only then, if the deportation efforts failed, would the organizing countries have to take over and place them temporarily on their territory. “We have always participated financially, and we will continue to participate,” said Babiš, according to whom the Czechia would continue to prefer, for example, financial support to African countries or assistance to southern European countries, for instance, in the form of sending police officers.

After discussions with von der Leyen, the Hungarian Prime Minister assessed the proposal in a critical tone. “The basic approach has not changed, they still want to manage migration, not stop migrants,” said Orbán, who said the commission was too focused on coping with refugees arriving in Europe and not better preventing them from doing so.

While the prime ministers agreed that the union should assess asylum seekers in so-called hotspots, for example, in North African countries, the European Commission expects that this will be at the borders of countries where they will arrive in Europe. According to the commission’s proposal, the procedure should be reduced to 12 weeks, while it is often dragged on for many months and several years.

Already on Wednesday, some politicians from southern European countries expressed reservations about the proposal, according to which their states will not be relieved at the initial stage when they will have to take care of the assessment of migrants. On the other hand, the proposal is supported by Germany, which, according to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, will, as the country holding the presidency, try to bring the member states to a preliminary agreement by the end of the year. The commission does not anticipate approving a proposal amending several EU standards before 2023.