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Reflecting Democratic Party's Past, Clinton's 'Deluded and Dangerous' Remarks on Migration in Europe Spark Outrage

"The approach Clinton is advocating will be a death sentence for millions and millions of people, and we should be clear about that."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton riled critics on Friday when she suggested Europe must curb migration to end the rise of right-wing autocrats. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The rise of xenophobic, right-wing extremists intent on stoking bigotry and prejudice against foreigners in Europe and elsewhere has startled observers around the world—but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered critics Thursday when she revealed her belief that the onus lies with European leaders to curb migration in order to appease those same extremists, rather than to protect the rights of asylum seekers.

In an interview with the Guardian, the 2016 presidential candidate perfectly illustrated the rift between so-called centrist Democrats and progressives as she suggested Europe should end its attempts to resettle the world's 25.4 million refugees whose home countries have become unlivable due to war, unrest, and poverty—frequently thanks to actions  by the U.S. and its European allies. 

"I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame" of right-wing power in Europe, Clinton told the Guardian. "I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message—'we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support'—because if we don't deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic."

Clinton's comments drew immediate criticism from European leaders and progressive Americans, who in addition to calling for Democrats to stand with refugees as they exercise their internationally-recognized right to seek asylum, denounced her remarks as a capitulation to extremists like President Donald Trump and his European counterparts.

Clinton's remarks echoed Trump's frequent lies about the burden Central American immigrants have placed on the United States. The Intercept's Mehdi Hasan pointed out that while Europe—a continent of about 740 million people and some of the world's wealthiest countries—allowed about a million refugees to cross its borders in 2015, before numbers started to steadily decline, the vast majority of refugees are hosted by far less well-off countries. 

Turkey hosted the greatest number of refugees as of 2016, according to the United Nations, followed by Pakistan, Lebanon, and Iran. 

"We face not so much a crisis of numbers but of cooperation and solidarity—especially given that most refugees stay in the countries neighboring their war-torn homelands," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that year.

Clinton went on to criticize Trump's impropriety when he's demanded the U.S. accept fewer migrants and refugees, calling for a wall on the southern U.S. border and issuing his Muslim ban—despite the fact that she had just expressed a similar desire.

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