Two years after the European Commission carried out the bidding of German Chancellor Angela Merkel by approving a plan to distribute migrants entering the Schengen area through Greece and Italy evenly across the European Union, the people of Europe have made their displeasure with Merkel’s “open door” policy abundantly clear.
Last month, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union suffered its most embarrassing showing in a federal election in decades, allowing a far-right, anti-immigrant party into parliament for the first time since World War II. The Alternative for Germany party’s unexpectedly strong showing fractured the ruling coalition spearheaded by Merkel’s conservatives as her partners, the Social Democrats opted to rebuild in opposition, complicating Merkel’s attempts to form a ruling coalition.
In what was widely celebrated by the right as an important public capitulation, Merkel announced that her government would consider implementing a refugee cap of 200,000 (far larger than the cap adopted by the Trump administration). While it’s unclear whether the cap will ultimately become law, the fact that Merkel has publicly acknowledged the failure of open doors was interpreted as a sea change in Europe’s response to the worsening migrant crisis.
And now, French President Emmanuel Macron - Merkel’s de facto partner in leading the European project - has himself made a small but important concession to the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in France, which, like many of its neighbors in western Europe, has suffered a horrific string of terror attacks inspired or actively organized by the Islamic State, the South China Morning Post reported.
In a wide ranging interview this week, Macron revealed a new policy whereby illegal immigrants who commit crimes in France will face deportation. Presently, being an illegal immigrant in France isn’t a criminal offense.
Even without new legislation “we can take tougher measures” and expel illegal immigrants if they commit a crime, “whatever it may be,” Macron said.
Shortly before the policy change, a Tunisian man stabbed two women to death in the southern city of Marseille. The man had been arrested two days earlier for shoplifting in eastern Lyon, stoking speculation that it could’ve been prevented.
Ahmed Hanachi, a 29-year-old whose papers were not in order, had been allowed to walk free the day before he attacked the women. Hanachi was known to the police for drug as well as alcohol problems and had a history of petty crime, using seven aliases.
“We are not taking all the steps that should be taken. Well, that’s going to change,” Macron told three journalists who interviewed him for more than an hour at the Elysee Palace.
Macron, who at 39 became the youngest person ever to win the French presidency following after defeating far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in a runoff vote. While Macron ultimately came away with a win, the National Front’s surprisingly strong showing has forced Macron’s centrist government to rethink its stance on immigration and the refugee crisis.
The French president repeated his call for a crackdown on criminal illegal immigrants during a speech to federal police later in the week where he also announced a federal increase in domestic security funding to help combat terrorism, according to France 24.
"We don’t welcome people well, our procedures are too long, we don’t integrate people properly and neither do we send enough people back," he said, while repeating former prime minister Michel Rocard’s axiom that: "We should take our fair share, but we can’t just welcome in all the world’s poor people.”
Notably, Macron’s crackdown on crime comes as his approval rating has slid from 60% in June to 44% this month, according to polling by Ifop/Fiducial.
Terror attacks have plagued western Europe in recent years as millions of migrants from Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere poured across the borders of southern European states like Italy and Greece. The crisis has led to a political divide between western and eastern Europe, as EU members like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have refused Europe’s demands to take in migrants. While we wouldn’t want to confuse correlation with causation, there are several notable gaps in this map of terror attacks since the beginning of the refugee crisis…
...see if you can spot them.