French prime minister issues refugee warning

Manuel Valls stresses solution to migration crisis lies in Middle East not Europe

French prime minister Manuel Valls has said Europe cannot accept more refugees, as he stressed the solution to the migration crisis lay in the Middle East and not in Europe.

“We cannot receive more refugees in Europe,” Mr Valls told journalists in Paris, adding that he would repeat the message in Berlin next month.

"I told [vice-chancellor] Sigmar [Gabriel] we cannot receive any more. 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]."

Crucial week

His comments come during a crucial week for the European Union’s policy on the refugee crisis, with the issue expected to dominate Wednesday’s


European Parliament

plenary session in Strasbourg. An EU-Turkey summit is scheduled for Sunday in Brussels, at which EU member states will consider offering Turkey a €3 billion package in exchange for a commitment by Ankara to help reduce the number of undocumented migrants fleeing to Europe.

Mr Valls said France will fulfil its commitment to accept up to 30,000 refugees in 2015-2016, but warned that the French public was aware some of the terrorists who carried out the November 13th attacks had entered the EU through the refugee route.

“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’.”

While France's commitment to the controversial EU relocation plan for 160,000 refugees agreed this year is not in question, Mr Valls's comments indicate significant opposition to a permanent EU quota scheme for refugees which is being pushed by the European Commission and Germany.

French president François Hollande said terrorists should not be confused with refugees, but warned that the EU’s external borders needed to be strengthened.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is Paris Correspondent of The Irish Times

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent