Sunday

25th Feb 2024

French PM: Europe can receive no more refugees

  • Asylum seekers camp out on Croatia-Serbia border in September (Photo: iom.int)

France's prime minister Manuel Valls told several newspapers Tuesday (24 November) he wants Europe to completely halt the influx of migrants from the Middle East, as Sweden announced it would become more strict with asylum seekers.

“We cannot receive more refugees in Europe. It is not possible”, Valls said, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, adding that Europe must control its external borders.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Valls: 'We cannot receive more refugees in Europe. It is not possible' (Photo: Parti Socialiste)

“If we do not do that, then the people will say: it's over with Europe”, noted the centre-left politician.

Valls was careful not to criticise the German chancellor's welcoming policy towards refugees directly, calling it an “honourable choice”. However, he did say that France cannot take more refugees than the 30,000 it has promised to take until the end of 2016 under an EU relocation scheme.

“It was not France that said 'Come!'”, he added. President Francois Hollande is receiving Angela Merkel Wednesday.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, his colleague responsible for France's economy, minister Emmanuel Macron, presented a Franco-German proposal for a €10 billion refugee crisis fund. Macron and his German counterpart, economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, jointly sent Hollande and Merkel their idea for a fund which would pay for tighter security, external border controls, and for looking after refugees, Reuters agency reported.

Macron noted that a joint response was called for.

“The risk is that our people, our political parties, our governments decide to treat this problem separately or even work against each other,” Macron said.

However, tension between EU member states on the refugee crisis continues. Slovakia announced Tuesday it would file its legal case against the relocation scheme before 18 December. The central European country is opposed to the plan, which was agreed in September against the will of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania.

Also on Tuesday, Denmark announced it would no longer take part in the relocation scheme. Having an “opt-out”, Denmark was not obliged to take in refugees from Italy and Greece, to help reduce pressure there, but it had promised in September to voluntarily take in up to 1,000 people.

Prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has now broken that promise.

“When we made the offer it was because we needed to solve what was viewed in Europe as the ultimate solution: that if you could distribute those 160,000, the problem would be gone. It is not,” said Rasmussen.

In Sweden, a popular destination for asylum seekers, the government announced the situation has become “untenable”.

Prime minister Stefan Lofven told the press Tuesday that Sweden, which expects 190,000 asylum seekers this year, can no longer cope with the influx of migrants.

“Now, to put it bluntly, more people will have to seek asylum and get protection in other European countries,” Lofven said, as quoted by Reuters.

He announced tighter border controls and stricter asylum rules for the next three years, to provide Sweden's asylum system with “breathing space”.

The move prompted neighbouring Norway to tighten border controls as well.

Meanwhile, the migration debate has been influenced by the increased fear of terrorism.

French PM Valls in the interview noted that “public opinion is aware” that at least two of the Paris attackers “entered Europe by mixing in with the refugees”.

That two of almost 860,000 people who have arrived in Europe this year came with malevolent intent may be no statistical surprise, but it has prompted renewed calls to halt migration.

EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called on his fellow politicians not to mix terrorists and migrants, but several seem increasingly willing to do that.

On Tuesday, Czech president Milos Zeman said the “danger has come close to our borders”.

“It is naive to think there is no link between the migrant wave and terrorism, because then we would have to assume the migrant wave includes no potential jihadists,” he was quoted by AFP as saying.

Meanwhile, AFP reported Tuesday that over 1,500 people – mostly Iranians, Moroccans, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis – are waiting at the Greek-Macedonian border, hoping for a policy reversal.

Non-EU member Macedonia decided last week to close its borders to all migrants except those from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, following similar decisions by countries further up the Balkan migration route.

“I will stay here until they let me through,” an Iranian migrant told AFP. “If I return home I will be either jailed or killed.”

Arrivals by boat also continue. On Tuesday 140 people arrived by yacht on the Greek island of Lesbos, and two bodies were found.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us