French PM calls on Gulf to ac­cept more refugees

Car­son vis­its Jor­dan camp, calls to ab­sorb refugees in Mideast

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

EVRY, France/AZRAQ REFUGEE CAMP, Jor­dan: French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls has called on the Gulf states to ac­cept more refugees flee­ing Syria, say­ing that a “hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter” could erupt in the Balkans if Europe does not con­trol its bor­ders. “I’ll say it again, Europe can­not ac­cept all the refugees com­ing from Syria. That’s why we need a diplo­matic, mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in Syria,” Valls said Fri­day evening.

“Ev­ery coun­try must play its part; I’m think­ing par­tic­u­larly of the Gulf states,” the prime min­is­ter said dur­ing a dis­cus­sion with res­i­dents of Evry on the out­skirts of Paris, fo­cus­ing on the re­sponse to the at­tacks which rocked the cap­i­tal two weeks ago. Most of the roughly four mil­lion Syr­ian refugees who have fled their coun­try since civil war broke out have trav­elled to neigh­bor­ing Le­banon, Jor­dan or Tur­key.

But Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar, UAE and other Gulf states have re­mained closed to them, while Europe strug­gles to adopt a com­mon pol­icy to­wards the hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees who are ar­riv­ing at its bor­ders. Un­less the bor­ders of the EU are prop­erly con­trolled “we are go­ing to see a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter in the Balkans this win­ter and Europe is go­ing to close up again,” Valls warned.

And while the prime min­is­ter re­jected any link be­tween gen­uine refugees and ter­ror­ism, he also high­lighted the dan­ger of ter­ror­ists be­ing al­lowed into the EU along­side those flee­ing war - as seems to have been the case with some of those re­spon­si­ble for the Paris at­tacks. “All it takes is for a few ter­ror­ists to slip in with the in­flux of refugees, and the peo­ple of Europe are say­ing, ‘Wait, if ter­ror­ists are get­ting in along with refugees, that means any refugee could pose a threat’,” he said. More than 800,000 mi­grants have ar­rived in Europe by sea since the be­gin­ning of the year, with the ma­jor­ity com­ing from the Mid­dle East.

Mean­while, US Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son said yes­ter­day af­ter vis­it­ing a camp for Syr­ian refugees, that the dis­placed should be ab­sorbed by Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries, with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity send­ing aid and “en­cour­age­ment” to the host na­tions. Car­son toured the Azraq camp in north­ern Jor­dan un­der heavy Jor­da­nian se­cu­rity, with jour­nal­ists barred. Car­son’s cam­paign also lim­ited ac­cess, not pro­vid­ing his itin­er­ary and re­leas­ing only a short state­ment af­ter the camp visit.

The can­di­date has re­peat­edly strug­gled to dis­cuss in­ter­na­tional af­fairs as they be­come a greater fo­cus in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial con­test. Ad­vis­ers have con­ceded that his for­eign pol­icy flu­ency isn’t where it needs to be and have ex­pressed hope mis­sions like his two-day trip to Jor­dan will help change that.

Car­son and other Repub­li­cans have adopted a harsh tone when discussing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s plan to wel­come 10,000 Syr­ian refugees to the US in this bud­get year. De­bate over Syr­i­ans flee­ing their war-torn coun­try erupted af­ter a se­ries of at­tacks in Paris ear­lier this month that raised se­cu­rity con­cerns across the West. Car­son and his GOP ri­vals ex­pressed con­cern that ex­trem­ists may sneak into the US among them. Last week, Car­son likened block­ing po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists pos­ing as Syr­ian refugees to han­dling “mad dogs”.

Af­ter the Azraq visit, Car­son sug­gested that it would be best to ab­sorb Syr­ian refugees in Mid­dle East­ern host coun­tries, which have given tem­po­rary shel­ter to most of the more than 4 mil­lion Syr­i­ans who have fled civil war in their coun­try since 2011. “Syr­i­ans have a rep­u­ta­tion as very hard work­ing, de­ter­mined peo­ple, which should only en­hance the over­all eco­nomic health of the neigh­bor­ing Arab coun­tries that ac­cept and in­te­grate them into the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion,” he was quoted as say­ing.

“The hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis pre­sented by the flee­ing Syr­ian refugees can be ad­dressed if the na­tions of the world with re­sources would pro­vide fi­nan­cial and ma­te­rial sup­port to the afore­men­tioned coun­tries as well as en­cour­age­ment,” the state­ment said. “There is much beauty in Syria and I sus­pect that many dis­placed Syr­i­ans will re­turn there when peace is re­stored,” he added.

Over­whelmed host coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly Le­banon and Jor­dan, have balked at the idea of longer-term in­te­gra­tion of refugees. They have com­plained that they are car­ry­ing an un­fair bur­den while the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s sup­port has fallen short. An aid ap­peal of $4.5 bil­lion for refugees in host coun­tries in 2015 is only about half funded. The cash crunch has cre­ated in­creas­ingly un­bear­able con­di­tions for Syr­ian refugees in Jor­dan, Le­banon, Iraq and - to a lesser ex­tent - in eco­nom­i­cally more ro­bust Tur­key. In 2015, hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees moved on to Europe in hopes of a bet­ter life. —Agen­cies

Manuel Valls

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