BRUSSELS (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 30th November, 2019) The European Union seems ready to take a hard line on repatriations of undocumented migrants after years of lackluster policy-making started to alienate voters and create crises at its southern frontiers.
Most surprisingly of all, French President Emmanuel Macron, hardened his migration policies in September, admitting that “France cannot host everyone.”
Speaking to the Valeurs Actuelles magazine earlier in November, he went further by promising that he “has an objective of repatriating 100 percent of the illegal migrants who are refused the right of asylum.”
This alarmed the right-wing opposition in the country, which has long campaigned for closing France to streams of migrants the problem became more obvious after thousands have been sleeping rough on the outskirts of Paris.
Marine Le Pen of the National Rally has accused Macron of trying to trick voters with his repatriation scheme, calling it a “political swindle and a smokescreen that will lead to even more immigration.”
Emmanuelle Menard, an independent member of the French Assembly remarked that since Macron took office in 2017, France had reached the “absolute record of new asylum applications, so these measures can only be symbolic.”
That number was estimated by Le Pen to stand at 100,000 a year, on top of 255,000 migrants who enter the country legally. No official figures for migrants who slip into France illegally could be obtained.
Filip Dewinter, a Belgian lawmaker, agreed in a comment to Sputnik that France owed Macron’s U-turn on migration to the upcoming municipal elections in June.
“How is he going to go from 10 percent of forced expulsions to 100 percent? Such a policy needs large financial means and logistics. It is just a smokescreen to satisfy the voters before the elections, so scared he is of Marine Le Pen,” he argued.
Greece, one of the hardest-hit countries in terms of migration it hosts thousands in refugee camps on the Aegean islands has meanwhile prepared to take a stand.
The Greek minister for migration policy, George Koumoutsakos, said he would submit a proposal for a “robust European mechanism for the return of migrants” at Monday’s meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers.
Greece has teamed up with Cyprus and Bulgaria to form an Eastern Mediterranean group and is cooperating with two other Mediterranean frontline nations Malta and Italy.
“A balance must be struck between the responsibility of the countries of first entry and the solidarity of other member-states that should implement burden-sharing policies and actions … Greece is at its limits,” Koumoutsakos said on Thursday.
This echoes a statement Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gave to German newspaper Handelsblatt last week, in which he accused Europe of ignoring the migrant problem and treating Greece as a “convenient parking lot” for migrants.
The migrant crisis in Europe has degraded substantially since German Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced her open door policy in 2015 as the measure had led to almost a million migrants trying to get to the country.
Armin-Paul Hampel, a lawmaker with anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), told Sputnik that his party did not want a repeat of 2015.
“The situation on the EU’s external border is dramatically worsening. A situation like in 2015 can no longer be ruled out … Several tens of thousands of migrants, mostly Muslims, have already gathered in Bosnia and are ready to enter the EU. The stated goal of the majority of this group is Germany,” he said.
He suggested that the governments of Italy, Spain, and Bosnia and Herzegovina should be offered assistance to send the illegal immigrants “back to where they come from.”
“Foreigners who currently reside in Germany and must leave the country are to be accommodated in closed facilities until their departure. The same applies to all foreigners whose identity is unclear. Canada should be our role model here,” Hampel insisted.
He also proposed that the EU strike a new deal with Libya with the help of the United Nations that would create a “humanitarian protection zone” on the Libyan coast where all people rescued at sea would be transferred to.
Italy has been one of the prime destinations for migrant rescue ships, until the former government of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini banned Italian ports from letting them in. A Rome court has ruled that migrants picked up by German NGO ships would be sent on to Germany.
Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for migration, has called for more solidarity with migrants this week in the face of growing anti-refugee sentiment, xenophobia and outright hostility toward refugees and asylum seekers.
“When you have expressed hate, when you have shouted, what have you really achieved? You are left with the problem and you have narrowed the space for real solutions,” he said.
He suggested that other EU countries should be inspired by Greek communities, which had demonstrated exemplary solidarity and hospitality, and called for more resources for Greece to strengthen its asylum system.
Mary Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, meanwhile said that the migrant problem would be a test for the new European Commission.
“Europe’s refugee policy is a test of its true ‘way of life.’ With a freshly elected parliament and a new leadership team in the EU Commission, we believe that it is time for Europe as a whole to adopt a more supportive, human attitude,” she said.
The new European Commission takes office on December 1.