EU values not the same, says France of US' tough stance

PARIS • Europe and the United States do not share the same values, France's government spokesman said as outrage grows over the Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant parents and children arriving from Mexico.

The European Union faces its own crisis over how to handle a years-long influx of migrants fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East, and spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said he did not want to see what is happening in the US occur in Europe.

"We do not share the same model of civilisation, clearly we don't share certain values," Mr Griveaux told France 2 television yesterday.

The furore over the detained children stems from US President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy, in which migrants apprehended entering the US illegally are criminally charged.

Parents who are referred by border guards for prosecutions are held in federal jail, while their children are sent to separate detention facilities, some in remote locations.

Europe's migration crisis has increasingly defined regional politics. In Italy, an anti-establishment government now holds power, and in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition is fighting for survival over the migration issue.

UNHCR's annual report, published yesterday, showed the global number of refugees grew by a record 2.9 million last year to 25.4 million, with another 43.1 million people forcibly displaced in their own countries.

A row over the fate of 629 migrants aboard a rescue ship last week exposed flaws in the EU's efforts to handle the migration influx and flung the issue back to the top of the agenda, after Dr Merkel's junior coalition partner gave her until a June 28-29 summit to get a migration deal.

Separately, the United Nations refugee agency said it is very concerned over the US separating children of asylum seekers from their families, and has raised the issue with Washington.

In an interview with Reuters, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Washington needed to find ways to manage the flow "without penalising the people themselves, people who oftentimes have very valid reasons to seek asylum".

"On measures that result in separating children from their families, we are very concerned and have expressed this concern," he said.

Mr Grandi said governments in many rich countries had adopted "despicable" rhetoric on migration, ignoring their duty to help people fleeing war or persecution.

UNHCR's annual report, published yesterday, showed that the global number of refugees grew by a record 2.9 million last year to 25.4 million, with another 43.1 million people forcibly displaced in their own countries. The vast majority of refugees remain in poor countries, with only small numbers seeking refuge in the West.

Some poorer countries like Bangladesh had gone beyond their international obligations by accepting huge numbers of refugees.

Governments should explain why it is right to help refugees, said Mr Grandi, "but the contrary has happened... They've built fear to build their electoral bases. And I think that this is despicable and this is irresponsible."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2018, with the headline 'EU values not the same, says France of US' tough stance'. Print Edition | Subscribe