Slovakia files court challenge to EU migrant quotas: PM

Bratislava (AFP) - Slovakia said Wednesday it had mounted a legal challenge to the EU's plan to distribute 160,000 asylum-seekers among member states under a quota system.

"The Slovak republic has officially filed a lawsuit against the Council of the European Union, to the highest court ... in Luxembourg," leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico said.

He added that the suit challenges "so-called mandatory quotas" on refugee re-location, which EU interior ministers adopted in September amid fierce opposition from central and eastern European member states.

The European Court of Justice adjudicates in disputes over how EU law is interpreted and applied.

"We demand that the court annul this decision, pronounce it invalid and require the Council to pay the costs of legal proceedings," Fico said.

Under the EU's quota system, Bratislava is expected to take in just under 2,300 migrants.

Fico slammed the quota programme as a "total fiasco" and said "we have to find another way" of dealing with the EU's migrant inflow.

The nation of 5.4 million people is among several eastern European countries that are staunchly against a system of migrant quotas designed to ease the burden on countries like Greece, Italy and Germany that have received the lion's share of arrivals.

Bratislava has instead agreed to welcome 149 Christian refugees from Iraq on a voluntary basis, Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said Tuesday.

But even that commitment has drawn criticism at home, including from Silvia Halvonikova, mayor of the western village of Nove Sady that is slated to take in four refugees.

"We only learnt about it last week. Nobody asked us if we want these people here. I have no idea who they are, where they will live," she told AFP.

Kalinak countered that they only assigned refugees after residents volunteered to take them in: "If someone decides to welcome a guest in their house, they do not have to ask the mayor for approval."

The idea to house the Christians with volunteers came from the civic association Pokoj a Dobro, led by priest Peter Brenkus. He told AFP that residents had contacted his group with offers to take in refugees.

Few migrants have entered Slovakia on their voyage to western Europe, and even fewer asylum-seekers have chosen to stay.

EU neighbour Hungary has also said it will challenge the contentious quota scheme.

Fico had in September raised the spectre of jihadists slipping into Slovakia masquerading as refugees, a possibility experts had deemed at the time to be unlikely.

In the wake of the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, he said authorities were "monitoring every Muslim in Slovakia".