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World News \ Europe

Slovakia offers shelter to Christian refugees

A migrant child runs through a temporary refugee camp in Slovakia - REUTERS

A migrant child runs through a temporary refugee camp in Slovakia - REUTERS

01/12/2015 09:30

(Vatican Radio)  Slovakia says it is giving asylum to a group of 149 Christians who live in Iraq and face extremism there. Their arrival in Slovakia comes amid mounting tensions between the European Union and Slovakia and several other Eastern European countries over a plan to divide refugees among member states.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

Slovakia's Interior Minister Robert Kalinak says that 25 Christian families will arrive from troubled Iraq in Slovakia within in the next few days. He adds that Slovakia should act, as in his words "they would lose their lives if we didn't help them."

Officials say that the families will be initially placed in a center in eastern Slovakia and the Catholic Church has agreed to help them integrate into society. 

However Slovakia, a predominantly Roman Catholic country, remains opposed to a European plan to redistribute as many as 160,000 asylum-seekers fleeing war and poverty among the European Union's 28 member states. 

The government of Prime Minister Robert Fico is planning to a legal complaint against it at an EU court in Luxembourg. It follows the example of neighboring Hungary which is taking the EU to court after Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Union's quota system aimed at fairly distributing refugees among member countries.      

Complaint filed

Slovak Minister Kalinak said Monday the complaint could be filed as soon as later this week.

Yet EU leaders say they still hope that all member states will participate in the scheme after Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged closer cooperation during a summit with the EU on Sunday. "This is not not a Turkish issue, this is not a European issue," he said. 

"Turkey or the EU are not responsible for this humanitarian crisis. But at the end of the day we have to act together how to deal with the refugee crisis," the prime minister added. 

"Again we agree that in order to solve this crisis there is a need for a solution in the Syrian crisis," he said. "Otherwise even we have tens of joined action plans, if this wave of refugees continues like this, Turkey and the EU will have a much bigger problems in the future," Davutoglu warned.        

The EU has pledged three billion euros to support Syrian refugees in Turkey. In a more symbolic move, the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has presented a project that will turn a former inn southwest of Vienna into apartments for four refugee families.

01/12/2015 09:30