Europe remains divided over migrants

(VOVworld) – The migrant issue continues to divide Europe. With some EU leaders calling on people to stay united and show tolerance towards the migrants, who are fleeing armed conflicts, others are threatening to expel all immigrants.

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Migrants in a temporary shelter in Hanau, Germany (Photo: Reuters)

European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker said last Saturday that the fear of terrorist attacks should not be a reason for Europe to abandon its humanitarian values and say “no” to migrants fleeing a bloody war in their homeland. Mr. Juncker opposes any change in EU migration policy after last week’s attack in Berlin. But he called for increased cooperation between EU members to improve security following the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin which killed 12 and injured 50. Mr. Juncker said that because terrorist operations have no geographical boundary, an individual country’s migration policy has little chance of preventing terrorism. The EU aims to exchange information effectively in the visa-free Schengen area to block all resources towards aiding terrorist acts.

In early December, the European Parliament (EP) approved the 2017 budget plan worth 168 billion USD, including 6.2 billion USD to resolve security and migrant issues. The sum will also help member countries resettle migrants, open migrant centers, and reintegrate eligible migrants or repatriate ineligible ones.

Contrary to the EC and EP moves, Hungarian Prime Minister Vikto Orban on Monday urged the EU to change its migrant policy, deport illegal migrants, tighten border security, and prevent the wave of migrants. Zech President Milos Zeman said the recent attacks on European soil were linked to the flows of migrants fleeing poor and war-ravaged countries. Mr. Zeman said the Czech Republic should not accept migrants on a voluntary basis, implying the EU’s immigration quotas. He said migrants were “hardly compatible” with Western values and taking them in would create a “breeding ground for potential terrorist attacks.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released reports last Friday saying that 5,000 people died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, 25% higher than last year. The UNHCR called on countries to open a legal path to take in refugees to avoid this tragedy.