Sunday

19th Jan 2020

UK and Germany talk tough on migrants

  • Italy rescued 1,000 more 'marauding' migrants over the weekend (Photo: iom.int)

The British and German governments have called for a new crackdown on economic migrants, in statements denounced as populist rhetoric by left-wing politicians.

Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, told the BBC, while in Singapore on Sunday (9 August), that “large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around” the Channel Tunnel entrance in France pose “a threat to … security”.

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He said the EU must “resolve the problem” by deporting more people.

He noted that “the gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe”.

But he said EU asylum laws make people “pretty confident” that if they enter EU territory, they will get the right to stay: “Now, that is not a sustainable situation because Europe can’t protect itself, preserve its standard of living and social infrastructure, if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa”.

The British immigration minister, James Brokenshire, added that he plans to throw the book at firms which give work to people on the black.

“Rogue employers who give jobs to illegal migrants are denying work to UK citizens and legal migrants and helping drive down wages”, he said.

In Germany, Volker Kauder, a senior figure in the ruling centre-right CDU party, targeted Western Balkan asylum seekers.

He told the Die Welt newspaper, also on Sunday, that “whoever comes from Kosovo, should be sent back home within a month”.

Manfred Weber, the German leader of the centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament, told press the EU should reimpose visa regimes on Kosovo and Serbia.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, also said the list of "safe countries of origin” in the Western Balkans, which excludes Kosovo and Montenegro, should be extended, making it more difficult for people to claim protection.

"We can only maintain the acceptance of the people of Germany for taking in people in need if we also work on credible efforts to speed up proceedings and provide clarity for those who have no chance of asylum”, he said in Berlin on Saturday.

Numbers

The comments came as the Italian navy rescued more than 1,000 people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa over the weekend.

The UN says 224,000 people have made the sea crossing since January, 98,000 to Italy, and 124,000 to Greece. At least 2,100 died trying.

The migrant debate has flared up in the UK and Germany because many people move on from southern to northern Europe.

UK authorities say about 5,000 people have gathered in Calais, France, to try to sneak through the tunnel.

Germany expects 450,000 to claim asylum this year, compared to 200,000 in 2014. Kosovars acounted for 29,000 applications in the first six months of 2015, the second largest group after Syria.

The European Commission has devised a system to redistribute migrants more evenly around member states.

But the UK opted out of the scheme, while other countries shot down mandatory quotas in favour of a voluntary scheme, which then fell short of targets.

’Disgraceful terms’

The British left-wing opposition party, Labour, has attacked Hammond’s “marauding” migrants comment.

Its shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, said Hammond should “think more carefully about what he says … those fleeing Syria are desperate refugees from a country being torn apart by war”.

Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP and contender for party leadership, urged the government to “explicitly recognise the contribution of Africans and other migrants to our society, not speak in these disgraceful terms”.

In Germany, Steinmeier, from the centre-left SPD party in the ruling coalition, also attracted criticism.

Lars Castellucci, a senior SPD member, published an open letter against redesignating Kosovo and Montengero.

Guntram Schneider, the SPD's minister of integration in North Rhine-Westphalia, told press: “If we want to curb the waves of migration, we have to work to help change the conditions in these countries”.

Polish strike

The anti-migrant rhetoric is not new in the UK, where the PM, David Cameron, in July, spoke of a “swarm of people” coming across the Mediterranean.

It also isn’t new in Germany, Greece, and Italy, or at the EU level, where migrants have been likened to “slaves” and labelled as potential “terrorists”.

For their part, some Polish workers in the UK are planning to go on strike on 20 August amid a Facebook campaign backed by the Polish Express daily.

Tomasz Kowalski, the newspaper’s editor, says the 680,000 Poles who live in the UK are sick of being blamed for economic problems.

“It’s [the strike] just a way to show people in the UK that immigrants are an important part of Britain”, he said.

But George Byczynski, a lawyer with a rival campaign group, the British Poles Initiative, has called for Polish UK residents to donate blood at hospitals on 20 August instead.

His group launched its initiative on Twitter, under the hashtag “#polishblood”.

“If somebody feels they are discriminated against they will be able to show the most positive thing that somebody can do, a very noble thing of just giving blood. It’s a purely positive thing to foster British-Polish relations”, he told The Independent, a UK daily.

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