Election 2015

Nigel Farage: EU asylum plan could let in extremists

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Media captionNigel Farage claimed that European countries faced "a direct threat to our civilisation"

Islamist extremists could cross the Mediterranean and gain access to the UK as a result of EU policies to address the migrant boat crisis, UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said.

Mr Farage challenged David Cameron and Ed Miliband to commit to opt out of any common asylum policy.

EU leaders met to discuss the crisis last week.

The UK said it would provide naval support, but it would not accept more asylum seekers.



Main pledges

  • Points system used to select migrants with skills and attributes needed to work in the country
  • Immigration capped at 50,000 people a year for skilled workers
  • Five-year ban on immigration for unskilled workers
  • Five-year wait before migrants can claim benefits

In a break from domestic campaigning for the UK general election, the UKIP leader travelled to Strasbourg for a debate in the European Parliament, following the meeting of the European Council on 23 April.

European leaders agreed to triple funding for rescue operations aimed at migrant boats in the Mediterranean, and to look at ways to capture and destroy smugglers' boats and deploy immigration officers to non-EU countries, officials said.

'Binding quota'

But many MEPs demanded bolder action, passing a resolution calling on the Commission to set a "binding quota" for the distribution of asylum seekers among EU states, amid concerns that southern European countries are bearing the brunt of the crisis.

The resolution, which was backed by four of the European Parliament's major political groups, also called for expanded search and rescue operations, bigger contributions to resettlement programmes, better cooperation with non-EU states and tougher measures against people smugglers.

The resolution is not binding on the Commission but Mr Farage alleged that a common asylum policy had been "agreed already" - and further claimed that extremist group Islamic State - also known as Isis - had threatened to send extremists to Europe through the Mediterranean route.

Mr Farage, who is an MEP for the South East region, told the European Parliament: "When Isis say they want to flood our continent with half a million extremists they mean it."

He added: "If the message is that anybody that comes will be accepted we are headed for disaster."

Analysis: Robin Brant, UKIP campaign correspondent

It's shock and awe part two from Nigel Farage.

As the final week of the election campaign approaches the UKIP leader has deployed the tactic that he is convinced worked so well for him and his party in the TV debates.

A few weeks back it was foreigners with HIV getting free treatment on the NHS. Tonight it's the threat of IS inspired extremists coming to the UK on boats across the Med.

He claims half a million could arrive in Europe.

Nigel Farage is breaking off from the campaign on Wednesday to fly to Strasbourg to speak against plans for what he says is an EU common migration policy. Something he believes could pose "a direct threat to our civilisation".

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the same debate that there was a need for member states to "share refugees geographically".

Arguing that allowing a certain measure of legal migration could reduce the number trying to enter Europe illegally, he called for the door to Europe to be left "partly ajar".

Speaking to journalists ahead of the debate, Mr Farage claimed: "The principle [of common asylum] has been accepted. All we're now talking about is the detail.

"If people in Britain see what I'm doing today and understand the significance of what is going on, I think they will be very, very angry indeed and they would want to know from the two potential prime ministers: do they intend to opt us out of this or will they stick with the legal agreements that we agreed back in 2013?

"We've got to a point here with this where, unless we stand up and say something, we will be opening up our doors not just to many more people but to the Islamic extremist threat."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption More than 750 people died on a boat crossing from Libya on 19 April

Also speaking in the Strasbourg debate was Dutch MEP Sophia in 't Veld from the Liberal ALDE group, who called the UKIP leader's words "populist and despicable".

She claimed the idea of a "flood of jihadists" had been "invented by Mr Farage to get himself elected on 7 May".

An EU directive in 2013 reaffirmed the aim of a common asylum policy. However, EU leaders have not agreed a common asylum and immigration policy within the EU.

Emergency meeting

An emergency meeting of EU leaders was convened last week after more than 750 people died on a boat crossing from Libya on 19 April.

Whereas the total number of deaths in 2014 was 3,279, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says it fears the figure for this year could top 30,000, based on the current death rate.

The UK - in the past a leading advocate of reducing naval patrols - said it would contribute helicopter carrier HMS Bulwark, two patrol boats and three helicopters. Germany, France and Belgium also offered ships.

Prime Minister David Cameron did not commit the UK to accepting more refugees.

Mr Farage also told the European Parliament that "we are guilty for this crisis", echoing earlier comments that the bombing of Libya has "directly caused" migrant disasters in the Mediterranean Sea.

The UKIP leader has also said he has "not got a problem with us offering refugee status to some Christians" from the Middle East and North Africa.

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