French presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse has said Europe has “sieve-like” borders and that the EU should fit barbed-wire fences to stop migrants crossing into the bloc illegally.
She was speaking from a migrant camp on the Greek island of Samos, one of three new detention centres in the Aegean Islands.
“We cannot have a sieve-like Europe, a supermarket Europe where you enter and leave as you please,” she said
Ms Pecresse, a member of conservative party The Republicans, is one of the main challengers to President Emmanuel Macron in the April elections.
Although Mr Macron has not yet formally announced his candidacy, he is widely expected to run.
Ms Pecresse praised the camp in Samos, which was built with EU money and includes barbed-wire fencing, security cameras, X-ray scanners and magnetic gates that lock migrants inside the compound at night, despite inhabitants’ protests.
“I think this place is quite exemplary, exemplary of a country, Greece, that has decided to really control its frontiers and ensure a balance between being very firm against those who bypass the law and humane to host people coming into the country,” she said.
Ms Pecresse also hit out at Mr Macron for sweeping the debate over migration “under the carpet”.
More than a million asylum seekers, many from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, travelled through Greece in 2015 at the height of the EU’s migrant crisis.
About a dozen Somali migrants held banners saying: “Freedom justice equality for all. Refugee lives matter. Stop detention, free the refugees.”