Eastern European states 'broke EU law' by refusing refugees
Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic acted illegally by refusing to accept refugees during the 2015 migrant crisis, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.
The Eastern European states refused to accept a plan by EU interior ministers in September 2015 to redistribute asylum seekers from Italy and Greece within the bloc.
By ignoring the decision, the court ruled that they "failed to fulfil their obligations under European Union law."
More than 1 million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe at the height of the crisis. Around 160,000 of them were meant to be distributed among other member states according to a quota system.
However, because Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic did not abide by the ruling, only about 40,000 refugees were relocated.
The three countries took in almost none over the two years the scheme was in operation.
They had argued that EU countries alone are responsible for ensuring public safety and not the European Commission, which drew up the quota scheme and began legal proceedings against them in December 2017.
But in the court's view, law and order and internal security concerns weren't severe enough to refuse to accept the refugees.
Although the court didn't issue fines on Thursday, the Commission considers that the countries are still not meeting their obligations, and can bring the case to the Court again and apply for financial sanctions.
The failure of EU states to share the burden of the migrant influx sparked of the EU's biggest political crises. The issue of immigration then became a major vote-winner for far-right parties.
Five years on, Greece is still struggling to manage the burden, with thousands of people held in deplorable conditions in the Greek islands.