Russia's Medvedev: rush of refugees to Europe a "terrible mistake"

Allowing a mass influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa into Europe is a "terrible mistake that threatens European identity," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview published Monday.

"If you ask people on the street in any country - be it France, Germany, Italy or Britain - whether they want 1.5 to 2 million people from the Middle East to settle in their country, it's unlikely that they would be happy about it," Medvedev told Time magazine, according to a transcript on his website.

He warned that extreme right-wing political parties have a chance to gain political power amid the refugee influx as voters bring their fears to the ballot box.

With a million new workers flooding the labour market, voters will worry that "we'll lose our jobs because migrant labour costs less," Medvedev said.

Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was outraged that a Russian-backed offensive in Syria was driving refugees into Turkey.

Under Merkel's open-door refugee policy, hundreds of thousands of refugees from conflict zones such as Syria have fled to Germany in the past year.

Russia's leadership has claimed that the wave of Syrian refugees into Europe was primarily caused by insurgent groups conquering previously stable government-held territory.

Russia began a bombing campaign against insurgents in Syria in September to support that country's President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally.

However, regional and Western powers support some insurgent groups seeking to overthrow al-Assad, whose regime they accuse of crimes against humanity, including killing civilians.

Last update: Mon, 15/02/2016 - 12:57

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