EU member states struggling to make distinction between asylum and immigration, says Syed Kamall

Written by Martin Banks on 10 January 2019 in News
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Senior MEP accuses some countries, including EU member states, of hypocrisy in how they deal with immigration.

Photo Credit: Press Association


Kamall, joint leader of the European Parliament’s right-leaning ECR grouping, said many states were happy to see their own nationals leave to live and work in other countries but balked at accepting immigrants.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, the UK Conservative MEP said, “Some have not even managed to make the distinction between asylum and immigration.”

Kamall was opening an ECR sponsored conference on Africa, billed as a chance to exchange best practice between EU and African countries.


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He used his speech to broadly condemn current immigration policy across the EU, saying, “We must learn to open our hearts to genuine asylum seekers – people who are fleeing persecution.

“The problem is that there is a terrible hypocrisy when it comes to immigration. Lots of countries are willing to see their own nationals go to live and work in other parts of the world but shut themselves off when it comes to accepting immigrants.”

He added, “This is not necessarily racist but a huge hypocrisy exists and this has to be addressed.”

Taking part in a session on “European support for African peace and security,” Ibrahim Sani Abani, secretary general of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, told the packed conference he saw three particular sets of threats to Africa.

The first was climate change, degradation of the environment and water scarcity.

“The problem is that there is a terrible hypocrisy when it comes to immigration. Lots of countries are willing to see their own nationals go to live and work in other parts of the world but shut themselves off when it comes to accepting immigrants” Syed Kamall MEP

He said large numbers of people were moving to urban areas “even though these cities do not have the means to support” such an influx.

Another is illegal drug trafficking which he described as a “very worrying” trend, citing a UN report which estimates that around 525 tonnes of cocaine was moved across western Africa last year alone.

This, he noted, is often linked to a third concern, terrorism.

He said terrorist groups are estimated to control about 200 square kilometres of land across several West African states and identified eight particular groups, including Islamic State, which had grown in force since the 2011 collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya.

“This has enabled them to gain access to arms and weapons,” he said.

The solution, he argued, was for African states to work with the EU to find the “conditions” to tackle the issue and prevent conflict in the first place.

Another speaker, Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst with the US public policy think tank, the Heritage Foundation, spoke of the “ease” with which terrorist groups are able to move across Africa which he warned, “gives them a broader set of targets” and enables cooperation between different terror organisations.

He told the meeting, “When these groups move they come into contact with other illegal crime organisations, for example, in Mozambique where criminal groups are hiring terrorists to carry out illegal drug smuggling operations.”

"For years, the EU has been sending electoral observations to Africa and making recommendations but we never see any of these actually implemented. More needs to be done to make sure these are put into practice” Cote d’Ivoire national assembly deputy Patrice Kouame Kouassi

Such movement is made relatively easy due to insecure borders and weak states, he said.

One example he cited is the poor adherence to international standards on police/citizen ratios.

“The international standard is one police officer per 400 citizens but in Mali, for example, the ratio is one officer for every 8,000 citizens.”

Corruption is another problem, he said, citing the example of a recent terrorist attack in Kenya. A terror group had managed to cross the border from Somalia merely by bribing border guards.

He said, “When it comes to combating the problem, you have to work with these tribes, strengthen civil society, plus reform armies and the police.

“The authorities also have to take advantage of new technologies, like drones, that can help protect borders.”

Patrice Kouame Kouassi, a deputy in the national assembly of Cote d’Ivoire and a member of the country’s committee on security and defence, told the conference that he was concerned about the impact of the EU’s electoral missions to Africa.

He said, “For years, the EU has been sending electoral observations to Africa and making recommendations but we never see any of these actually implemented. More needs to be done to make sure these are put into practice.”

Kouassi also said that “lack of respect” for human rights was one of the main causes behind radicalisation.

 Polish ECR member Zdzislaw Krasnodebski said that Europe shared many of the issues and challenges facing Africa which had been highlighted at the conference.

“These include climate change and illegal trafficking. It is just a question of scale but it is up to both sides – the EU and Africa – to manage these problems together,” he told participants.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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