Thursday

17th Oct 2019

Barroso warns of extremism in immigration debate

  • Protest against Lega Nord: the coalition party has suggested using weapons against immigrants (Photo: Cau Napoli)

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said it is in the interest of Tunisia to work with the EU on repatriating irregular migrants and prevent the immigration debate being hijacked by "populist and extremist" forces in Europe.

"Europe has to do more to preserve the Schengen area. In the past it was almost a sacrifice to cross borders, now it's a pleasure. But we have to implement the Schengen rules in a strict manner," Barroso said on Thursday (14 April) during a joint press briefing in Brussels with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"I launched an appeal to our Tunisian friends to help us solve these problems together. I don't think it is in the interest of third countries that there is a debate in Europe on such sensitive issues and that certain populist, extremist forces seek to take advantage of these problems," he added, in reference to his visit to Tunis earlier this week when he offered more EU money if the government agrees to clamp down on irregular migration.

Some 23,000 Tunisians have crossed the Mediterranean sea to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa since January, when the dictator, Ben Ali, was ousted in a democratic uprising.

The interim government in Tunis was initially reluctant to take back more than four migrants a day until a deal was struck on 5 April with Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni, allowing some 60 people to be returned daily.

Still, the influx of boats from Tunisia to Lampedusa continue to outnumber the returns and the evacuation operations to the Italian mainland.

Two politicians from Maroni's anti-immigrant Lega Nord party - a coalition partner in Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government - on Thursday suggested that weapons should be used against the migrants.

Speaking to an Italian broadcaster, deputy transport minister Roberto Castelli said Italy needed to protect itself against the "invasion."

"This problem could become so unbelievably big that we must ask ourselves if we need to use weapons," he said, as quoted by Deutsche Welle. "There is a risk this invasion could grow to millions or tens of millions."

In Brussels, his party colleague and MEP Francesco Speroni also said that "all means" including "weapons as a last resort" should be used to suppress the influx of people who are "violating Italy and her rules".

Both argued that if force was admissible in Libya, then the same should be true of the situation in Lampedusa.

"Europe uses weapons in the same setting in Libya. I don't understand why in one case weapons can be used, and not in another," said Speroni.

Back in March, a report on racism in Italy published by Human Rights Watch, an international NGO, highlighted the lack of interest in the Italian government in condemning hate speech and investigating reported hate crimes.

"In times of inflammatory rhetoric about these arrivals, nobody in the government is warning against racism, especially in the light of protests in local communities against the establishment of tents and temporary housing for the migrants," Judith Sunderland from HRW Italy told this website.

According to the report, Italian authorities are dragging their feet because they "fail to identify racist and xenophobic violence as a serious issue." Instead, racist violence is seen as "episodic and rare" and the targeted violence against African migrants minimised or excluded.

A representative of the local government of Tor Bella Monaca, the scene of numerous attacks on migrants over the past several years, told Human Rights Watch that these incidents "are not about racism, but rather a problem of cohabitation, of numbers."

The National Office against Racial Discrimination, a government body, only began tracking incidents of racist violence in September 2010.

UK grants highest number of EU citizenships

Over 810,000 people were given EU citizenship in 2010, with the UK topping the list in numbers and Luxembourg agreeing the highest amount in relation to its size.

Belgium's EU nominee still embroiled in legal feud

Cache of 18 secret documents and allegations of death threats in fresh legal complaint surrounding Belgium's EU nominee, Didier Reynders, shortly after a low-level prosecutor cleared his name.

EU sides with Google in data protection case

The European Commission suggests the French data protection watchdog overstretched its remit to make Google delist names on a global scale from search query results, as part of the 'right to be forgotten' rule in the EU's data protection regulation.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us