Eric Cantona ready to take in refugees at home

Eric Cantona the ex-Manchester United footballer turned actor says he is ready to open his home up to welcome refugees but says he’s disappointed with the response of his government, which is trying to appease the far-right.

Eric Cantona ready to take in refugees at home
Eric Cantona is ready to take in refugees. Photo: AFP

Cantona, who hung up his boots in 1997 to become an actor, spoke out about the refugee crisis on Thursday, urging French people to be willing to take in those who may need lodging.

“King Eric” as was known during his time in Manchester said France had a duty to refugees because of the strife it had helped to cause in the Middle East and Africa

“We create wars for economic reasons and then people flee their countries because we’ve created chaos and we care not even capable of receiving them,” Cantona told Le Parisien newspaper.

Asked whether he would be willing to take in refugees at his home Cantona said: “Of Course. Certainly. And it would be good if the 65 million French people would all be willing to accept them.”

Cantona who is currently appearing in a stage production at the Théâtre Hébertot said he would not vote for President François Hollande in 2017.

“I voted for him in 2012 but I will spoil my ballot (vote blanc) in 2017,” he said, before criticising the Socialist government for turning to the right on economic policies.

“We don’t want to welcome too many migrants because 55 percent of French people are against it and because the National Front are rising in popularity, we will venture on their terrain,” said Cantona.

His appeal to the French public comes as a new poll suggests the mood towards refugees in the country is changing.

The latest opinion poll now shows a majority of French people are now in favour of welcoming more refugees.

Some 53 percent of the public say they are now favourable compared to 43 percent at  the beginning of the month.

The change in mood has been put down to the outpouring of emotion following the publication of the photo of the drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi.

SEE ALSO: 'Airbnb for refugees' comes to France

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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.