President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech last night (August 16) that Europe must “protect itself from significant waves of illegal migrants” from Afghanistan, following the Taliban seizing power in the country.
Mr Macron 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”.
Comments criticised online
The president’s comments were swiftly criticised by other politicians on social media, as the Twitter hashtag #EmmanuelLePen compared him to far-right politician and leader of Le Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen.
Deputy mayor of Paris, Audrey Pulvar, said the president’s comments were similar to former President Nicolas Sarkozy comparing migrants from Syria entering Europe to a “water leak”.
“The political right is still the political right,” she said.
National Secretary for Europe Ecologie Les Verts, Julien Bayou, tweeted: “What about asylum? And the children, women and men who are fleeing terror?"
“France must play its part. We need a concrete plan.”
The president later defended his message by tweeting an extract from his speech in response to “people who wanted to twist his words”.
Ce que j'ai dit ce soir sur l'Afghanistan et que certains veulent détourner : la France fait et continuera de faire son devoir pour protéger celles et ceux qui sont les plus menacés. pic.twitter.com/nhjUdjHlvO— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 16, 2021
Evacuating French nationals and allies a priority
Mr Macron’s speech came amid chaotic scenes at Kabul airport in the past 48 hours, as large numbers of citizens and foreign nationals have tried to leave Afghanistan.
Mr Macron said France’s immediate priority was to move French nationals in Afghanistan and “Afghans who have worked for France” to safety.
He said: “It is France’s duty and pride to protect those who have helped her: interpreters, chauffeurs, cooks and many others. Nearly 800 people have already arrived on French soil, and there are dozens of people who still need to be evacuated.”
Two military planes and the French special forces were expected to arrive in Kabul to continue evacuation efforts last night.
Mr Macron also spoke about a potential threat of terrorism that could increase now that the Taliban have returned to power.
He called for an “international, responsible and united” political and diplomatic response to the threat from Europe, the US and Russia.
Women’s rights are also expected to suffer under a new Taliban rule. When in power previously the group enforced a strict version of sharia law, which prevented women from working, studying and in some cases leaving their homes without a male guardian.
The president said: “Women in Afghanistan have the right to live in freedom”.
President Macron to speak today over Taliban control of Afghan capital