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EU Could Punish Members Who Don’t Accept Refugees

FILE - Many of the tens of thousands of refugees in Idomeni, Greece, have been camping by the border for more than a month, and still hope to pass through Macedonia into Western Europe, March 30, 2016. (Photo - H. Murdock/VOA)

If member states don’t accept their fair share of refugees, they could see repercussions next month from the European Union’s governing body, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference, Timmernans said he still hoped “peer pressure” could persuade leaders of EU nations to admit some of the 160,000 refugees currently stranded in Italy and Greece, though he wouldn’t rule out punishing countries if no progress is made by next month.

"The commission might start infraction procedures and we will certainly consider that,” he said.

Timmermans said it was “highly unfair” for Greece and Italy to be overburdened while other countries haven’t taken any of the refugees.

The 160,000 refugees are supposed to be resettled among other EU countries by September, but so far only about 12,000 have moved out of the two Mediterranean countries.

The EU agreed to the refugee quota deal in September 2015 after a months-long battle, and with the bitter opposition of several central European countries that saw the move as an attack on their sovereignty.