Refugees queue for food in Turkey
Refugees queue for food in Turkey

Fresh tensions have flared up over a controversial scheme to move thousands of refugees across European Union countries. One senior official compared talks on the divisive issue to "fighting trench warfare."

The row broke out as EU leaders prepared to meet in Brussels on Thursday for a summit on the migration challenges facing the bloc.  

At the heart of the dispute — and topping the meeting's agenda — is an EU quota system to distribute tens of thousands of refugees across EU member nations.

In 2015, the EU introduced a scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees from overburdened frontline states Greece and Italy. But so far only 32,000 people have been moved to new homes.

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos hit back at Tusk, saying that his intervention was "unacceptable" and "anti-European."

"It ignores all the work we have done during the past years…Europe without solidarity cannot exist," Avramopoulos said. "It is a duty — moral and legal — to protect refugees."

Following the exchange, one EU diplomat said the upcoming summit would likely yield "a very lively and maybe controversial debate."

Another diplomat told Reuters news agency that discussions on the issue were like "fighting trench warfare."

No concrete decisions will come out of the meeting, but EU leaders are expected to arrive at a position on mandatory quotas by June 2018.

nm/sm s (AFP, Reuters, AP)

First published: December 13, 2017

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