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Jul 26, 10:54 AM EDT

EU court advised to reject Hungary, Slovakia refugee case


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AP Photo/Santi Palacios

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- The European Court of Justice should dismiss lawsuits filed by Hungary and Slovakia challenging a European Council decision that EU nations must take in hundreds of asylum-seekers, a court adviser said Wednesday.

Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Romania voted against the 2015 decision establishing a temporary plan to relocate 120,000 migrants. Under the deal - agreed at the height of Europe's migrant crisis - Hungary would have to temporarily take in 1,294 asylum-seekers and Slovakia 902.

Poland, which the decision said should take in 6,182 asylum-seekers, supported the positions of Hungary and Slovakia.

Advocate General Yves Bot, whose role is to propose non-binding legal solutions for the court in cases under his purview, rejected arguments from Slovakia and Hungary regarding the legality of the relocation plan. The advocate general's position is often an indication of what ruling the court will likely make.

The relocation plan has had limited success so far, although the European Commission said Wednesday that migrant relocations from Greece and Italy to other EU nations reached a record level in June - over 2,000 migrants were relocated from Greece, and nearly 1,000 from Italy.

"One thing is very clear: relocation works if the political will is there," said EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. He urged EU nations to step up efforts to re-house migrants in Italy, now the main point of arrival for migrants making the risky Mediterranean boat crossing to Europe from North Africa, mostly Libya.

Bot believed the relocation plan was legitimate even though it was contested by some countries.

Gergely Gulyas, a deputy leader of Fidesz, Hungary's governing party, called the EU mandatory migrant quota scheme "illegal and inapplicable."

Gulyas said the resettlement plan was illegal because it infringed on member states' rights to set their own migration policies. He also said the low number of relocations that had taken place so far - over 24,000, according to the EU - showed it was "impossible to carry out."

The European Court of Justice has started deliberating on the case.

In a separate matter, the European Court of Justice on Wednesday held Croatia liable for examining the asylum applications of people who passed through the country in great numbers during the 2015-2016 migration crisis. Many of them then moved on to destinations further west in the EU.

The case concerns a Syrian who applied for asylum in Slovenia and members of two Afghan families who made their asylum applications in Austria after they passed through Croatia.

The court agreed with Slovenia and Austria, which claimed it was Croatia's responsibility to evaluate the asylum requests.

The ruling could potentially allow for the return to Croatia of asylum-seekers who passed through but filed their asylum applications elsewhere.

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