The huge influx of migrants from Syria and Iraq is putting the future of the EU in grave danger, French prime minister Manuel Valls has warned. Mr Valls said European societies could be “totally destabilised” unless the EU imposes tighter controls at external borders.
The French PM told the BBC: “It’s Europe that could die, not the Schengen area. If Europe can’t protect its own borders, it’s the very idea of Europe that could be thrown into doubt.
“It could disappear, of course, the European project, not Europe itself, not our values, but the concept we have of Europe, that the founding fathers had of Europe. Yes, that is in very grave danger. That’s why you need border guards, border controls on the external borders of the European Union,” he said.
He left little doubt that he believes German chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement last year that her country would welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees had encouraged more people to come to Europe.
“We need to help Germany,” said the French PM. “But the main message we must send now with the greatest of firmness is to say that we will not take in all the refugees in Europe.
“A message that says ‘come, you will be welcome’ provokes major shifts of population. If you say anything in Europe today, a few seconds later it is on the smartphones of people in refugee camps near Libya.”
Meanwhile, former British prime minister Tony Blair said there was “a genuine desire to be generous” to refugees, but Europe needed to respond to public concern about security.
“There’s an issue of numbers. How many people can Europe absorb?But there’s also an issue of security. Can we be sure exactly who is coming in?” he said. “Those two issues combined make it a very, very tough political challenge.”
Newly updated figures revealed that the number of people who applied for asylum in the EU last year has passed 1.25m.
At least 43 people, including 17 children, drowned when their boats capsized off two Greek islands near the Turkish coast yesterday, coastguards said, marking one of the deadliest days for migrants risking the perilous route to Europe from Turkey.
According to survivors’ testimonies, dozens were on board a wooden sailboat which went down off Kalolimnos, a small island in the Aegean Sea close to Turkey’s coast, one coastguard official said. Twenty six people were rescued and at least 35 refugees drowned in one of the worst incidents in months, the official said. It was not clear why the vessel capsized, but witnesses said strong winds were blowing at the time.
Fishing vessels assisted the search and rescue operation which lasted hours.
In the sinking at Farmakonisi, another small island also close to the Turkish coast, six children and two women drowned when their wooden boat crashed on rocks shortly after midnight.
The International Organisation for Migration said the deaths of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean already make this “the deadliest January on record”.
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