May 12, 2016 / 11:02 AM / 2 years ago

Slovenia accepts first 28 migrants under EU relocation quota

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia said it took in its first 28 migrants on Thursday under a European Union relocation scheme that many other EU countries have been slow to carry out or rejected outright.

Migrants make their way on foot on the outskirts of Brezice, Slovenia October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

The migrants include families and individuals from Iraq and Syria and will be housed initially in a center for asylum seekers in the capital Ljubljana, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Vesna Mitric said.

Last September, a majority of leaders of the 28-member EU approved the transfer of about 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, where most first set foot on EU soil, to other EU states to share out the burden.

So far less than 2,000 have been relocated because of resistance especially on the part of central European states who say they fear the mostly Muslim migrants could not be integrated into their largely Christian societies.

Slovenia, a tiny southeastern EU nation with a population of 2 million, committed to accepting a total of 587 migrants, or up to 50 per month through August 2017.

From October till March almost 500,000 migrants passed through Slovenia - the smallest country on the Balkan migration corridor - but only a small fraction applied for asylum there. The vast majority headed on to wealthier western EU countries.

Around 1.2 million migrants have streamed into the EU, the vast majority applying for asylum in Germany and Sweden, since the start of 2015. But the rate of arrivals has diminished dramatically this year due to the closing of Greece’s border with Macedonia, cutting off the favored Balkans route toward the western EU, and an EU deal with Turkey that has largely stopped refugees crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece.

Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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