PRAGUE: jihadists are using the migrant crisis as cover to slip into the European Union, Czech President Milos Zeman said yesterday, urging his country’s military to prepare to defend its borders.
“It is naive to think there is no link between the migrant wave and terrorism, because then we would have to assume the migrant wave does not include potential jihadists,” the outspoken 71-year-old leftwinger told Czech military chiefs. “The danger has come close to our borders,” he added. “We cannot exactly estimate their number of course, but some of them took part in the Paris attacks” on November 13, which left at least 130 dead. Zeman also quoted intelligence reports saying jihadist terrorists had used the Czech Republic as a gateway to western Europe.
Last week, Zeman triggered controversy when he attended an anti-Islam rally in Prague in the company of far-right politicians and a paramilitary unit. He accused Islam of being “a culture of assassins and religious hatred”. Leftist Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka shot down Zeman’s controversial comments, saying he should not have appeared “at the meeting of a xenophobic sect which was filled with spreading intensive hatred”.
Members of an anti-NATO Czech paramilitary unit including former soldiers also attended the rally.
Leading Czech daily Dnes reported Tuesday its members are training to detain migrants, insisting they are using their “military skills to push patriotic interests”. The International Organisation for Migration estimated yesterday that nearly 860,000 migrants had landed in Europe so far this year and just over 3,500 have died while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety.
The influx has caused tensions between EU members and has given a boost to far-fight, anti-immigration groups across the continent. Few asylum seekers have chosen to stay in the largely secular Czech Republic, a European Union and NATO member nation of 10.5 million people, with a majority heading to wealthier Germany and other western EU states.
Nearly 70 percent of Czechs oppose the arrival of migrants and refugees in their country, a recent survey showed.
Slovakia will launch legal action by next month against an EU quota plan to distribute 160,000 refugees and migrants across the bloc, a justice ministry spokeswoman told AFP yesterday.
“The justice ministry, together with representatives of relevant ministries, is working on preparing the lawsuit,” spokeswoman Alexandra Donevova told AFP, adding that it would be “submitted before December 18”.
Bratislava intends to lodge the suit with the European Court of Justice, which adjudicates in disputes over how EU law is interpreted and applied.
A nation of 5.4 million people, Slovakia is among several eastern European countries staunchly against a system of migrant quotas designed to ease the burden on countries like Greece, Italy and Germany that have received the lion’s share of arrivals. Few migrants have entered Slovakia on their voyage to western Europe, and even fewer asylum seekers have chosen to stay. Under the EU’s quota system, Bratislava is expected to take in just under 2,300 migrants.
Seeking re-election in March, Slovakia’s popular leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would rather risk infringing EU rules than implement what he described as the EU’s “diktat” migrant quotas.
He also told local press that Slovakia’s lawsuit would address “very significant” issues surrounding relations between EU members and Brussels, including countries’ weighting in EU decision-making. Fico had in September raised the spectre of terrorists slipping into Slovakia masquerading as refugees, a possibility experts had deemed unlikely at the time.
During a televised debate last week, he insisted that the “security of Slovak citizens took precedence over the rights of migrants”. “We are monitoring every Muslim in Slovakia,” Fico told local journalists after the shooting and bomb attacks in Paris that were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, while admitting that “in the majority of cases they’re (Muslims) here legally.”
The International Organization for Migration on Tuesday estimated that nearly 860,000 migrants had landed in Europe so far this year, with over 3,500 dying while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety. – AFP