Anti-Migrant Mood Deepens in Central Europe After Paris

Vanessa Gera, AP, November 16, 2015

Even before the Paris attacks, the mood in Central Europe was decidedly anti-migrant, with fences going up on borders, a Syrian beaten on a Polish street last week and the rhetoric sharp across the region. Now the bloodshed unleashed by Islamic extremists is deepening fears of Muslims and threatening to create an atmosphere even less welcoming for those fleeing war in the Middle East.

On the Slovenian-Austrian border over the weekend, the armies of both nations strip-searched migrants on their westward march amid heightened security, causing large numbers to build up at a refugee camp.

The shifting mood could threaten European efforts to find unity on the migration crisis. A new anti-migrant government in Poland already is casting doubt on whether it will take all 7,000 refugees the previous government agreed to accept.

Poland, Hungary and other countries across the region–many of them multicultural lands in the past–have been largely mono-ethnic Christian societies since the mass killings and expulsions of World War II, and resistance there has been especially stiff toward Muslims, who are largely seen as threats to national identity. {snip}


Even some of the migrants themselves are worried about the security gaps that have come with the largest movement of refugees across European borders since World War II. Some say they fear that the same Islamic State extremists they are fleeing will infiltrate the masses of migrants, carry out more attacks and create greater distrust of legitimate asylum-seekers.

“Europe made a big mistake. They should not allow all the people,” said Emile Tarabeh, a customs officer from Syria at a migrant center in Presevo, Serbia, who is hoping to reach Sweden. “It will be more difficult now” for the real refugees, he said.


On Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has taken a prominent anti-migrant stance, criticized the EU as “adrift.”

“It is weak, uncertain and paralyzed,” he told the Parliament in Budapest. “In Brussels they continue to say that immigration is good, even while we get new evidence every day that immigration is a bad thing.”

Recalling that Hungary been criticized as inhumane for building fences on its borders to keep migrants out, Orban said: “But the question is: What is more humane? To close the borders to illegal border-crossers or put the lives of innocent European citizens at risk?”

He said it’s “bad even to think about how many terrorists may have gone through the territory of our country.” Nearly 400,000 migrants passed through Hungary this year.

“We don’t think that everyone who comes from there is a terrorist, but we don’t know,” Orban said. “No one can say how many terrorists have arrived among the migrants until now, how many are already here and how many are arriving day by day.”


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