African mi­grants threaten EU so­cial in­fra­struc­ture, says UK’s Ham­mond

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

A surge in mi­grants from Africa threat­ens the Euro­pean Union’s liv­ing stan­dards and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture, Bri­tain’s For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said on Sun­day, adding that the bloc was un­able to take in mil­lions of peo­ple seek­ing a new life, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on EurAc­

Ham­mond’s com­ments, some of his most out­spo­ken on the sub­ject yet, un­der­score how the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is ramp­ing up its anti-immigration rhetoric in re­sponse to a spike in mi­grant at­tempts to reach Bri­tain via the Chan­nel Tun­nel from France.

They are also part of a wider EU trend which has seen Alexis Tsipras say Greece can­not cope with the num­ber of mi­grants flee­ing in­sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East and Africa and Ger­man calls for tighter immigration curbs.

“We have got to be able to re­solve this prob­lem ul­ti­mately by be­ing able to re­turn those who are not en­ti­tled to claim asy­lum back to their coun­tries of ori­gin,” Ham­mond, speak­ing while vis­it­ing Sin­ga­pore, told BBC TV.

Ham­mond said there would al­ways be mil­lions of Africans with “the eco­nomic mo­ti­va­tion” to want to get to Europe and that EU laws meant mi­grants were “pretty con­fi­dent” they could stay. “That is not a sus­tain­able sit­u­a­tion be­cause Europe can’t pro­tect it­self and pre­serve its stan­dard of liv­ing and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture, if it has to ab­sorb mil­lions of mi­grants from Africa,” he said.

The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment is un­der pres­sure to show it is act­ing to solve what the press has dubbed “the Calais cri­sis” with hun­dreds of mi­grants try­ing nightly to scale fences around the en­trance to the Chan­nel Tun­nel in France.

That has dis­rupted pas­sen­ger and freight traf­fic and dom­i­nated the sum­mer’s head­lines. The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has an­nounced that immigration of­fi­cers and French po­lice are to work side by side at Euro­tun­nel’s con­trol room at Co­quelles, mak­ing it eas­ier to re­spond quickly to at­tempts by mi­grants to break into the tun­nel.

But the gov­ern­ment’s in­creas­ingly shrill tone on the is­sue - Cameron was crit­i­cised for re­fer­ring to mi­grants as “a swarm” - has up­set char­i­ties, church­men and left-wing politi­cians.

Ear­lier this month, Church of Eng­land Bishop Trevor Will­mott told the gov­ern­ment not to for­get its hu­man­ity.

“When we be­come harsh with each other and for­get our hu­man­ity then we end up in these stand-off po­si­tions,” he told the Ob­server.

The num­ber of mi­grants try­ing to reach the Euro­pean Union has in­creased sharply over the past two years. 90,000 mi­grants have ar­rived in Italy alone since Jan­uary this year.

Last Wed­nes­day, the Ital­ian coast­guard plucked a fur­ther 400 refugees from the Mediter­ranean, af­ter their over­crowded boat sank off the coast of Libya. Ac­cord­ing to some ac­counts, 200 peo­ple had al­ready drowned be­fore help ar­rived.

Around 188,000 mi­grants have made the cross­ing from North Africa to Europe so far this year, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM), which puts the death toll in the Mediter­ranean at over 2,000 since Jan­uary 2015.

In April, af­ter an even worse dis­as­ter es­ti­mated to have cost 800 mi­grant lives, the 28 Euro­pean Union lead­ers agreed to take ur­gent ac­tion — to step up res­cue ef­forts at sea and to try and halt the prob­lem at source, in­clud­ing the use of lim­ited mil­i­tary ac­tion against peo­ple traf­fick­ers in Libya.

The bloc failed how­ever to agree last month on how to dis­trib­ute 40,000 mostly Syr­ian and Eritrean mi­grants from over­stretched Italy and Greece.

Mem­ber states of­fered to take in take some 32,000 plus another 22,500 Syr­ian asy­lum seek­ers cur­rently in camps out­side the EU. Given the num­bers in­volved and the scale of up­heaval across North Africa and the Mid­dle East, many be­lieve the prob­lem dwarfs such mea­sures.

Faced with the scale of the cri­sis, na­tion­al­ist par­ties across Europe have be­come in­creas­ingly vo­cal in their op­po­si­tion to poli­cies of re­set­tle­ment and sol­i­dar­ity.

Immigration has over­taken un­em­ploy­ment and the fi­nan­cial cri­sis as the num­ber one con­cern for EU cit­i­zens in re­cent months, ac­cord­ing to a study by Euro­stat. Many Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have taken strong anti-immigration mea­sures in or­der to mol­lify their in­creas­ingly wor­ried vot­ers.

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