Europe should take no more refugees, says French prime minister

Paris attacks are Europe’s moment of truth, according to Manuel Valls

 French prime minister Manuel Valls Mr Valls was at home in Paris’s 11th district, just 150 metres from La Belle Équipe café where 19 people were shot dead on the night of November 13th. “I learned a few hours later that the son of close friends, a former gallery owner in Barcelona, died,” he said. Photograph: EPA/Ian Langsdon

French prime minister Manuel Valls Mr Valls was at home in Paris’s 11th district, just 150 metres from La Belle Équipe café where 19 people were shot dead on the night of November 13th. “I learned a few hours later that the son of close friends, a former gallery owner in Barcelona, died,” he said. Photograph: EPA/Ian Langsdon

 

“We cannot receive more refugees in Europe, ” French prime minister Manuel Valls has told foreign correspondents in a group interview focused on the November 13th attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.

Mr Valls said he will repeat that message when he addresses the SPD congress in Germany on December 12th. “I told [vice chancellor and chairman of the SPD] Sigmar [Gabriel] we cannot receive any more,” he said.

“This doesn’t mean I’m criticising Germany. Germany made a choice which is to her honour, but she has to assume her responsibilities. Do you think Belgium or France will receive more refugees today? No. No. No. For me, things are very clear. The solutions are over there [in the region].”

France will fulfil its commitment to accept up to 30,000 refugees in 2015-2016, though they may not want to come to France, Mr Valls said. “France did not say ‘Come!’ That’s the difference,” he said, referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel and shooting a glance at a German correspondent.

“Public opinion is aware that [at least two of the jihadists who carried out the Paris attacks] entered Europe by mixing in with the refugees,” Mr Valls said. “That raises the problem of Europe’s capacity to keep the wave of immigration under surveillance, to enforce its decisions about controlling its borders and assess individuals in ‘hot spots’.

“Europe is facing its destiny. If it’s not capable of fighting terrorism by putting in place the PNR [passenger name record system] . . . No one understands why the [EU] parliament blocked it.”

Arms traffickers

Mr Valls said the situation at Calais, where some 6,000 migrants lived in a squalid encampment, has “stabilised”. Some 1,500 have been moved elsewhere.

“The mayor of Calais wants us to send people to other towns in France, 10, 15 or 20 at a time. But we have to get agreement from the mayors, even if it’s only a few people. After what just happened, where terrorists were among the migrants, obviously the welcome is less warm.”

France’s Italian and German allies reject the use of the word “war” to describe the conflict with Islamic State.

“It is a war,” Mr Valls said adamantly. “There were semantic debates in the past, when people worried about making the terrorists happy by calling it a war . . .The attack was an act of war, not to conquer our country, but to break it . . . Those who reject the word are rejecting reality . . . We’re not going to hold seminars about the meaning of words,” Mr Valls continued. “What counts is the response. Every country has to get ready for it. I remind you that Italy and Germany are threatened in the [jihadist] communiques.”

Shot dead

He received messages regarding an explosion at the Stade de France, shooting near the Place de la République.

“A friend who lives upstairs from La Belle Équipe told me, ‘It’s terrible. There’s shooting in every direction. There are people dying’.”

Mr Valls’ first reaction was, “This is it. This is the attack we’d been expecting. We didn’t know if it was going to continue in the same area, or move to other targets. You’re horrified. My bodyguards came quickly to get me out and take me to the crisis meeting at [the interior ministry]. You go into action. We haven’t felt the impact yet. I’ll feel it on Thursday morning when I go to the funeral of my friends’ son, and on Friday when I go to the national ceremony of homage.”

The three people killed by security forces in Saint-Denis on November 18th were preparing another attack, Mr Valls said. “Are there still individuals from that team preparing something? I don’t know. We can’t exclude it.”

Investigators still don’t know why three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France. “It remains strange,” he said.

“And everyone was surprised that Abdelhamid Abaaoud [the ‘mastermind’ of the attacks] came to Paris. Maybe it was because so many of the jihadists he sent on their own had failed.”

The Paris prosecutor said yesterday that Abaaoud and a man killed with him in Saint-Denis on November 18th had planned to blow themselves up in La Défense business district.

When he was France’s interior minister in 2012, Mr Valls said, the jihadist network that attempted to blow up a kosher shop in Sarcelles numbered some 30 people.

“I warned that we were confronting enemies outside France and enemies within . . . I said this was the greatest and most complicated threat . . . Today, there are 1,800 [jihadists], maybe more.”

Intelligence services

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher attacks that killed 17 people last January, Mr Valls denounced the “territorial, social, ethnic apartheid” that has prevented many Muslims from integrating French society. The remark outraged the right-wing opposition.

Societal debates are no longer a priority, Mr Valls said. “The response is a security response. It’s a response of order, of the fight against terrorism . . . That’s what the French demand.”

French society “no longer knows what war is, has a different relationship to death,” Mr Valls said. “We’ve forgtten the tragic periods of our history. French people have to be prepared for this new situation.”