Lithuania said Wednesday it has decided to resettle up to 250 Syrian refugees, migrants and asylum seekers transferred from Italy and Greece, as the European Union grapples with how to handle a crisis in the Mediterranean.
Announcing the government\’s decision, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius told reporters the Baltic state wants to "show its solidarity and help solve this problem with the rest of Europe".
A Baltic state of three million that joined the 28-member EU bloc in 2004, Lithuania would take in the migrants and refugees over the course of two years, Deputy Interior Minister Arturas Norkevicius told AFP.
Like other central European EU members including fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia, as well as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, Lithuania had up to now been opposed to any mandatory migrant quotas.
Lithuania had planned to accept only 30 to 40 people, but under a proposed quota system the European Commission asked it to take in 207 Syrian refugees, 302 asylum seekers transferred from Italy and 201 transferred from Greece.
Poland recently said it would take in 60 Syrian refugee families on a voluntary basis.
A fresh opinion poll in Slovakia showed Wednesday that 70 percent of the country\’s 5.4 million citizens do not want to take in refugees.
Italy has been increasingly applying pressure to other EU nations to resettle their share of migrants and refugees arriving on its shores.
But at a meeting Tuesday in Luxembourg, European interior ministers failed to reach an agreement on carrying out proposals by the European Commission for quotas to redistribute migrants and asylum seekers throughout the bloc.
European leaders swore action after an estimated 800 migrants died in a shipwreck in April, the worst disaster yet in the Mediterranean in a year in which a total of 1,800 people have died trying to reach Europe.