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21st May 2022

Europe's populists link terrorism with refugees

  • France's far-right leader, Marine Le Pen demanded a halt to the influx of refugees (Photo: European Parliament)

Europe’s far-right and populist politicians used the attacks in Paris on Monday (16 November) to call for an immediate halt to the inflow of refugees and to criticise the EU’s migration policy.

Leaders from France to Hungary were making “I told you so” speeches, all referring to the passport found near the body of one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks that killed 129 people on Friday.

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French prosecutors said the bomber’s fingerprints matched those recorded in October in Greece, the start of the European migrant route for most refugees.

While European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned on Sunday against drawing a link between terrorists and refugees, populist and far-right leaders throughout Europe preyed on the security fears of voters by playing into the uncertainties about the masses who are fleeing war and poverty for Europe.

“We don't think that everyone who comes from there is a terrorist, but we don't know," Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban told the Hungarian parliament Monday.

“No one can say how many terrorists have arrived among the migrants so far, how many are already here, and how many are arriving day by day,” he added.

Orban also used the attacks in Paris to justify erecting fences on Hungary’s Serbian and Croatian borders to stem the flow of people.

Recalling that Hungary has been criticized as inhumane for building them, Orban said: "But the question is: What is more humane? To close the borders to illegal border-crossers or to put the lives of innocent European citizens at risk?"

In Poland, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo was sworn in after winning an election in which analysts think her Law and Justice Party gained support from its anti-migrant statements.

Giving a flavour of the new government, incoming Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said on state television Sunday that migrants should be organized into an army and sent back to Syria to fight.

"Can you imagine a situation in which we send our troops to fight for Syria, while hundreds of thousands of Syrians sip coffee on Unter den Linden [a boulevard in Berlin] or at the old town square and watch how we fight for their security?" Waszczykowski was quoted by AP.

No to quotas

The new Polish government suggested Warsaw will not take in refugees under the EU relocation plan that would redistribute 160,000 people across Europe from Greece and Italy.

Hungary, which originally would have been a beneficiary of the program, is also fighting the scheme, and parliament could vote an a motion to challenge the plan.

Orban said the relocation plan could lead to terrorism.

"In light of this terror attack, Brussels cannot challenge the right of member states to defend themselves," Orban said. "Mandatory resettlement quotas are dangerous because they would spread terrorism across Europe."

In Germany, thousands joined an anti-Islam, anti-immigrant Pegida movement's rally in Dresden. Although the numbers reached an estimated 9,000-12,000 marchers, the crowd was not as big as the gathering that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January.

The demonstrators blamed the Paris attacks on what they see as Europe’s failed immigration policy.

That was echoed to some extent in a shocked France as well.

France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, called for an "immediate halt" to new arrivals.

Le Pen's party said that its "fears and warnings of the possible presence of jihadists among the migrants entering our country" had been borne out.

Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders took to Twitter to say to the government: "Will you listen at last: close the borders!"

Sweden to tap Hungary's EU relocation quota

Sweden, which hosts the most asylum seekers per capita, has asked other EU states to relocate some people under a quota originally designed for Hungary.

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