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IMMIGRATION

Migrants make parts of France ‘unlivable’… says new president of Brazil

Parts of France have become "unlivable" because of migrants, Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has said, using rhetoric similar to Donald Trump's before he became the US president.

Migrants make parts of France 'unlivable'... says new president of Brazil
Migrants and undocumented workers take part in a demonstration to mark International Migrants Day in Paris, on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Bolsonaro, who takes office on January 1, made the controversial remarks late Tuesday in a live video feed on his Facebook page.

The extreme right-wing politician was elected in October on a hardline anti-crime and anti-corruption platform and has been dubbed the “Tropical Trump.”

“Everybody knows what is happening in France. Some parts of France are simply unlivable,” Bolsonaro said on Facebook.

He said that, despite a good welcome by the French, migrants were not integrating.

“You know how those people are, right? They have something in them, they don't give up their roots and they want to make their culture, their acquired rights and their privileges prevail,” he said.

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France warns of surge in migrant attempts to reach Britain by boatPhoto: AFP

“France is suffering because of that. Part of the population, part of the military, some of the institutions are starting to complain about that. We don't want that for Brazil.”

It was not clear what recent events prompted Bolsonaro's outburst. Nor did he explicitly say whether he was referring to Muslim migrants, though those with North African heritage form the biggest group of migrants in France after Europeans.

France is currently in the grip of “yellow vest” anti-government protests unrelated to migration. 

It has been rocked by a number of recent deadly attacks, notably in November 2015 in which 130 people were murdered in Paris by radicalized French- and Belgian-born gunmen, and last  week in the city of Strasbourg where a French-born ex-convict killed five people in a rampage claimed by the Islamic State group.

Aligning with Trump

The comments by Bolsonaro recalled those made by Donald Trump in December 2015 as he was campaigning to become US president.

Speaking to US network MSNBC, Trump claimed “they have sections in Paris that are radicalized, where the police refuse to go there. They're petrified. The police refuse to go in there.”

Trump also said parts of London were similarly dangerous, and used those assertions to justify a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” 

After becoming president, Trump issued an order that largely bars citizens from five Muslim-majority countries getting US visas.

Bolsonaro did not say whether he would impose tighter immigration controls, but did repeat that he will pull Brazil out of a nonbinding global migration pact ratified by the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, Brazil… signed the pact. We are not against migrants, but we must be have very rigorous criteria for those entering Brazil. We are going to denounce and revoke this pact on migration,” he said.

In the same Facebook video, Bolsonaro said he would do everything possible to counter the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, calling their leaders “dictators” and saying neither were being invited to his inauguration.

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POLITICS

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.

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