French Interior Minister advocates for firm stance on illegal immigration
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that illegal immigrants arriving in Europe should not be given the message that "they will be welcomed whatever happens," and that France can "welcome" only those "who are persecuted for political reason."
Darmanin on Monday told Europe1 radio before his visit to Italy:
"There cannot be the message to people arriving on our (European) shores that they will be welcomed whatever happens."
Promising to project "firmness" in Rome, he continued:
"If there are asylum seekers eligible for asylum, who are persecuted for political reasons, of course they are refugees. And in those cases, France, as it has always done, can welcome those people."
But "60%" of arrivals "come from countries like Ivory Coast, Guinea or The Gambia with no humanitarian issues", he added. "We have to protect the EU's external borders and, above all, look into asylum requests immediately, and send people back to their country when they're not eligible."
Darmanin's remarks came amid a debate over handling of migrant arrivals, after a record number of people landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa last week.
Between Monday and Wednesday, around 8,500 people –more than the island's entire local population– arrived in 199 boats, according to the UN migration agency.
The European Union presented yesterday an emergency plan for Italy to help it handle the surge in asylum seekers.
"Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European answer," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Lampedusa.