President Donald Trump's policy of separating migrants entering the US from Mexico from their children shows that the United States and Europe do not share the same “model of civilisation,” France's government spokesman said Tuesday.
“I don't want what's happening in the United States to happen in Europe, we don't have the same model of civilisation, clearly we do not share certain values,” spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told France 2 television.
Trump is facing mounting pressure over his policy of separating families that illegally cross the Mexican border, with reports showing dozens of children being held in large metal enclosures.
“These images are obviously shocking, and obviously our job is to defend a European ideal, an ideal of peace, of freedom,” Griveaux said.
Trump has also riled European leaders by claiming that Europe had made a “big mistake” by letting in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and misery since 2015, saying he would not let the US become a “migrant camp”.
“We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us,” he tweeted on Monday.
Griveaux's response came ahead of a meeting in Berlin between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work out a common EU response to the migrant influx.
The German leader is facing a backlash from within her own government on the issue, which has fuelled the rise of far-right and populist parties opposing immigration around Europe.
“I believe the core responsibility of my generation… is to defend European solidarity against populism, against all forms of populism, the far left and the far right,” Griveaux said.
“If everyone retreats behind their national borders, we won't succeed,” he said.
France has faced accusations of “hypocrisy” in recent days after President Emmanuel Macron criticised Italy for turning away the migrant rescue ship Aquarius.
Italy's new populist government responded by saying it would not “accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have preferred to look the other way on immigration”.
“The Italian government has never abandoned the almost 700 people aboard the Aquarius,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “After the refusal of Malta to allow the people aboard the Aquarius to disembark there, we received an unprecedented gesture of solidarity from Spain. The same cannot be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies.”