France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen lashed out at a plan to impose quotas of refugees across Europe, stepping up her party’s anti-immigration rhetoric ahead of French regional elections, reports The Financial Times.
Rejecting the Franco-German proposal designed to tackle the most severe migration crisis facing Europe since the second world war, the far-right politician called for all migrants to be sent back home, without distinguishing those fleeing war from those coming for economic reasons.
“We’re told to accept 160,000 illegal immigrants this year, but next year it will be 700,000 and the following it will be 1.2m,” Ms Le Pen said on Saturday during a party meeting in the southern city of Marseille.
Ms Le Pen’s stance is in tune with a sceptical public opinion in France, where record high numbers of jobless people and fear of terrorism have fuelled anti-immigration sentiment. Fifty-five per cent of the French oppose a softening of asylum rules, according to an Odoxa poll published in Le Parisien on Sunday. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said migrants came for economic reasons.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Ms Le Pen appeared unmoved by the picture of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach last week, that helped shift Europe’s stance towards the growing number of migrants trying to reach its shores from the Middle East and Africa.
“Do you know if he was a refugee or an illegal immigrant? I don’t know,” Ms Le Pen said. “All I know is that each year, French authorities award asylum only to a minority of those applying for it. I wonder if this tragedy is not [being] used for political purposes.”