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Jimmie Akesson, Swedish Democrats leader. Photo supplied

‘Soon hundreds of thousands and maybe millions’ of migrants to EU

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has warned the European Union against admitting migrants at the Turkish-Greek border. Other European leaders have sounded a similar warning.

Published: March 7, 2020, 8:15 am

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    “If these people, some of whom are also prepared to use violence, ultimately get through to Central Europe, [the number] will not remain at 13 000. Then there will soon be hundreds of thousands and maybe millions later. In the end, we would have the same conditions as in 2015,” Kurz told the Friday editions of the newspapers of the Funke media group and its French partner newspaper Ouest-France.

    He defended Athens’ move not to accept asylum applications for a month. “The people who are now arriving at this border are largely not refugees who are fleeing from the Syrian war zone. Most of them are migrants who have been living in Turkey for years,” emphasized the ÖVP chief.

    These people have no right to asylum in Greece since they are not persecuted in Turkey. “But they are being abused, their suffering is being exploited. And they are being used to put pressure on the EU. We cannot play this game,” warned Kurz.

    Every country is free to accept asylum seekers. Austria had processed 200 000 applications in recent years and, in relation to its population, accepted more migrants than almost any other EU country. “We have to integrate them now. It’s a big challenge. We cannot allow excessive demands, because that would be irresponsible.”

    Kurz spoke out clearly in favor of better protection of the EU’s external borders. “If the external borders do not work, there will be borders within Europe again.” In 2015, Germany was the first EU country to reintroduce border controls. “I very much hope that Europe has learned from it this time.”

    At the beginning of the week, Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) had already confirmed that the country would not accept migrants. He contradicted Vice-Chancellor and Green Party leader Werner Kogler, who had asked to take children and women from the Greek camps. “We have not agreed that we should bring women or children to Austria in addition,” clarified Nehammer. Austria has sent personnel and financial aid to Greece.

    Hungary had also closed its transit zones on the border. The government in Budapest justified the move by saying that there was a link between immigrants and the corona virus. Many asylum seekers came from or via Iran, where the disease is particularly widespread.

    A majority of Germans meanwhile oppose Germany playing a pioneering role in welcoming migrants to the Greek border. According to a survey by infratest dimap for the ARD Germany, 49 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that countries such as Germany and France should set a good example when accepting refugees, even if other EU countries oppose it. On the other hand, 48 percent thought Germany should stand alone when accepting migrants.

    While this attitude is particularly pronounced among supporters of the Greens (75 percent), the SPD (71 percent) and the Left (60 percent), it was met with strong rejection by AfD supporters (95 percent). This view also predominates with the FDP (69 percent).

    Notably, Merkel’s Union supporters are divided on this issue: 49 percent are in favor of receiving border migrants, while 46 are against it.

    Only 41 percent of the citizens surveyed, on the other hand, disagreed with the statement that the Greek external EU border has to be closed to migrants from Turkey. Some 57 percent believe that they should be allowed to cross the border so that they can then be distributed to the individual EU countries.

    In the meantime, seven German cities have asked the German government to create the conditions to accept children from migrant camps in Greece. In addition to the Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), the appeal was signed by the Mayors of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Potsdam, Hanover, Freiburg, Rottenburg am Neckar and Frankfurt (Oder).

    They also refer to the “Cities of Safe Ports” alliance, in which 140 cities have come together that have agreed to accept additional migrants.

    The leader of the Swedish Democrats, an anti-immigration Swedish party, is however determined to discourage migrants. Jimmie Akesson traveled to Edirne, a border town with Turkey and distributed leaflets discouraging migrants from coming to Sweden. “Don’t come to our house. Sweden is full. We cannot give you more money or provide you with housing. Sorry,” says the leaflets.

    Akesson told RT: “We have spoken to many of them and Sweden, Germany and France are often mentioned as destinations.”

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