Monday

20th Nov 2017

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.

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  • 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.

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EU seeks to shut down Libya sea route

EU leaders are aiming to reach a consensus on the Dublin asylum reforms by early next year, announced European Council chief Donald Tusk. But first, they want to shut down the Central Mediterranean route from Libya.

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The EU's policy of helping the Libyan coast guard to return people plucked from the sea is "inhuman", says the UN's human rights chief, given that most end up in dire conditions.

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