Fintan O'Toole: The spectre of the migrant is scaring democracy to death

Cutting the numbers of migrants will not stop the rise of the far-right because the anxieties it exploits are ultimately not about migration

 Migrants wait at a naval base in Tripoli, after being rescued in the Mediterranean.  Photograph:  AFP/Mahmud Turkia/Getty Images

Migrants wait at a naval base in Tripoli, after being rescued in the Mediterranean. Photograph: AFP/Mahmud Turkia/Getty Images

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of the immigrant. No force is doing more to shape contemporary politics than the fear of mass immigration. Polls show that it was the largest factor in the Brexit referendum two years ago.

It has been relentlessly exploited to create the fear and resentment that have carried the far right into government in Italy, Denmark, Austria and Hungary, into the federal parliament in Germany for the first time since the fall of the Nazis and into contention for power across most of the continent.

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