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Poland says will honor EU migrant quotas but questions legality

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s new conservative government will stick to its predecessor’s commitment to take in about 7,000 migrants despite the objections it raised when it was in opposition, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said.

Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski speaks during an interview with Reuters in Warsaw, Poland December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

But it will conduct thorough security checks on would-be migrants and take in refugees only once their identity has been established and confirmed, Waszczykowski said in an interview.

Warsaw’s previous center-right government came in for sharp criticism from the Law and Justice (PiS) party when it broke ranks with Hungary and other eastern European nations by agreeing to take in about 7,000 refugees following a European Union directive for up to 120,000 migrants to be relocated across the bloc.

After the conservative and euroskeptic PiS won election last year to form a majority government, the incoming European affairs minister said the November attacks in Paris, in which Islamic State militants killed 130 people, meant there were no “political possibilities” for carrying out the plan.

But Waszczykowski said the new government would stick to the plan laid out by the previous administration, which envisages first arrivals this year, though it regarded it as legally flawed.

Asked whether the last government’s road map for 7,000 refugees still stood, he replied: “Yes, we are already prepared for it and we confirm that we’ll start doing it ...”

“The vast majority of these people are emigrants, but they were treated as refugees. In our view, the legal premise of this decision is faulty,” Waszczykowski said.

He said Poland was not “for now” planning to follow in Hungary and Slovakia’s footsteps and challenge the relocation scheme in court, but it was watching developments and liaising with the two countries.

It would conduct thorough security checks and only accept refugees who wished to relocate to Poland once their identity has been established and confirmed.

“We have information from Germany, that the Germans are only able to confirm the identity of around 20 percent (of migrants), and in most cases they don’t know who those people are,” Waszczykowski said.

“We cannot repeat the mistakes of other countries. We cannot afford migration and refugees who will not guarantee the security of the country.”

Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Writing by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Richard Balmforth