Mathew Holehouse, Telegraph, September 24, 2015
Europe must deport failed asylum seekers and close its borders to smugglers or the extreme right parties will surge, including in the United Kingdom, one of the European Union’s most senior officials has warned.
An influx of refugees and migrants is raising fears about the “identity, future and cohesion” of European states, said Frans Timmermans, the First Vice President of the European Commission.
He said a failure by frontline states–Greece and Italy–to swiftly process migrants giving illegitimate asylum seekers the means to disguise themselves as Syrians.
Two Royal Navy craft–HMS Enterprise, a survey ship, and HMS Richmond, a Type 23 frigate–will begin arresting traffickers on international waters in the Mediterranean from October 7, it was announced today. They are part of a EU naval taskforce that is moving from a search-and-rescue mission to one of interception.
In a provocative move, Hungarian troops began to lay spools of barbed wire along its border with Slovenia–a crossing that falls within the Schengen free movement zone. Its previous fences with neighbours Serbia, Croatia and Romania have been condemned by EU leaders, but tolerated on the grounds that they are external borders of Schengen.
Meanwhile, relations between Serbia and Croatia–which fought a vicious war in the early 1990s as Yugoslavia collapsed–soured over the handling of the migrant crisis.
Serbia banned imports from Croatia to their neighbour’s decision to close the border to cargo to halt the refugee tide. Croatia responded by banning all Serbian-registered vehicles from entering the country.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said a scheme to redistribute 120,000 refugees round the EU must go much further, days after it was approved against the wishes of four eastern European states.
“I am deeply convinced that what Europe needs is not just selective relocation of this kind, but much more a durable process for fairly distributing refugees among member states,” she said. “A first step has been taken, but we are still far from where we should be.”
After weeks of condemnation over the border fence, EU officials now appear to concede that Viktor Orban has a point. Mr Timmermans said that Hungary’s neighbours must understand that it has “no experience of diversity” after decades under Soviet rule.
“We have to patrol our borders better. We have to make sure that those countries where people arrive are better placed to make sure people are registered, that people who don’t have the right to asylum are returned swiftly,” he told BBC radio.
“This has an impact on every single member state. If we’re not able to tackle this issue, if we’re not able to find sustainable solutions, you will see a surge of the extreme right across the European continent.”
Mr Orban has horrified his European counterparts for insisting that Muslims are a threat to Europe’s Christian heritage, and opposed a quotas system of relocation as an “invitation” to tens of millions of economic migrants. He has presented himself as a bulwark against Jobbik, the far-right Hungarian opposition. He today suggested he would give migrants safe passage directly though his country to Austria and Germany, as it was announced 10,000 people had entered the country.
Mr Timmermans added: “We don’t know enough about each others’ histories. We should know more about Central European history. Knowing that they were isolated for generations, that they were under oppression by Moscow for so long, that they have no experience with diversity in their society, and it creates fear in the society.” He said Mr Orban should show leadership and explain to voters that all countries will in time become more diverse.
At a summit in Brussels, leaders agreed early this morning that special reception centres will be set up for migrants in Italy and Greece by the end of the November–more than two months away.
They also agreed to increase spending for the EU’s Frontex and Europol forces, and to offer more help from Greece and Italy to identify and fingerprint migrants.
“We see that because people are not registered on arrival quickly enough they share stories, they buy false papers and say they are from Syria when they are not because they know if they are from Syria they will probably get asylum,” Mr Timmermans said.
Mr Tusk warned that “millions” of refugees will reach European shores and the external border must be secured to save the Schengen system.
“Recently I visited refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan and heard only one voice: we are determined to get to Europe,” he said.
“It is clear the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come. So we need to correct our policy of open doors and windows. Now the focus should be on proper protection of our external borders.”
Despite the warning, the package agreed was relatively modest.
Antonio Guterre, the head of the UN refugee agency, said he was “disappointed” that it did not contain legal routes for migrants to Europe.
“Reading the summit conclusions, you could almost believe there were no refugee crisis at all,” said Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch.
Norway’s domestic intelligence agency said the influx of migrants had a consequence for the general threat assessment in the country, mainly in the potential for a backlash.
More than 2,800 people, mainly Syrians, have sought shelter in Norway so far in Norway in September.
Siv Alsen of the PST security police said there is a potential that Left-wing groups rallying to support refugee-related cases and “can lead to counter-reactions and violent clashes” with Right-wing extremists.
In Thursday’s statement, Mr Alsen said asylum-seekers linked to radical Islamism are “not a central concern” in the short term, adding the main threat comes primarily from people born or raised in Norway.
The country expects to receive up to 20,000 asylum-seekers this year, compared to 11,480 people in 2014.