Nice will not allow Afghan refugees to settle, mayor Christian Estrosi has said, because the city has suffered due to Islamic terrorism in recent years.
When asked on RTL if Nice would welcome refugees, Mr Estrosi said: “No, no, it’s very clear.”
Instead, he called for international cooperation and a “migration policy with quotas”.
He said: “I am ready to be involved in international politics. The power takeover by the Taliban is a threat to security in the western world. And there is a new wave of Islamic terrorism with the rebuilding of Al-Qaida.”
Yet, he said that he would not welcome refugees in the city, and called for mayors to have the power to protect their own areas.
He explained: “I have a city that has been a victim of considerable terrorism in recent years.” He was referring to the attacks on July 14, 2016; and the killing of three people in the Nice basilica last year.
But in September 2015, Mr Estrosi appeared equally reticent to welcome refugees; at the time, he said that he would “refuse to let himself be dictated to by a government policy based on quotas”.
#Afghanistan : "Non, je ne veux pas recevoir de réfugiés chez nous, c'est clair. Notre ville a été victime ces dernières années du terrorisme de manière considérable, mettons en place une politique migratoire avec des quotas", @cestrosi dans #RTLMatin avec @JeromeFlorin pic.twitter.com/ElLdqLYiyT— RTL France (@RTLFrance) August 18, 2021
Criticism and backlash
Mr Estrosi’s linking of refugees with Islamic terrorism has attracted criticism, with Thomas Portes, the spokesperson of MP and presidential candidate Sandrine Rousseau, notably denouncing it as “intolerable rhetoric”.
He said: “This is intolerable rhetoric that seems to be suggesting that refugees are terrorists. Vomit-inducing.”
Estrosi affirme que la ville de Nice ne veut pas recevoir de réfugiés afghans au motif que « la ville a été victime ces dernières années du terrorisme de manière considérable ». Insupportable réthorique qui tend à faire croire que les réfugiés sont des terroristes. À gerber.— Thomas Portes (@Portes_Thomas) August 18, 2021
Europe ‘must protect itself’
His comments on refugees come after President Emmanuel Macron made a somewhat controversial speech on the situation in Afghanistan – where the Taliban have captured the capital Kabul and the former president has fled – and used the phrase “a flux of irregular migration”.
The president said on August 16 that Europe must “protect itself” from a wave of Afghan migrants, and highlighted the dangers of sudden migration.
He said: “France will continue to fulfil its duty to protect those who are in the most danger. We will play our part in an organised and fair international effort. [But] Europe cannot take on the consequences from the current situation alone.”
He said illegal migration was “dangerous” for people who travelled to Europe and “contributed to trafficking of all kinds”.
Mr Macron has been criticised for the speech, with Mr Portes saying that it sound like “extreme-right rhetoric” – but the president has maintained that he is not anti-refugees, and has said his priority is to “protect those who are most in danger” and prevent illegal trafficking.
In contrast, around a dozen mayors have said that they will welcome refugees where needed, while others have called for a coherent plan across France.