EU president: Europe can't take more refugees

At a news conference held during the G-20 summit, European Council president Donald Tusk warned that the "practical capability" of Europe to accept more refugees is at its limit.


Europe is "close to limits" on its ability to accept new waves of refugees, EU President Donald Tusk said Sunday, urging the broader international community to shoulder its share of the burden.

"The practical capability of Europe to host new waves of refugees, not to mention irregular economic migrants, is close to limits," he told a press conference on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

A steady stream of refugees has flowed into Europe over the last year, largely fleeing the civil war in Syria.

The issue has become a political hot potato for leaders in the region as a series of Islamist terror attacks and rising anti-globalisation sentiment have combined to create an increasingly inhospitable environment for refugees from the brutal conflict.

The highly publicised drowning of a three-year-old Syrian boy last year temporarily softened hostility to migrants, after pictures of his corpse lying on a Greek beach rapidly became an emblematic image of the suffering involved in their journeys.

Germany threw open its borders and volunteers across Europe flocked to train stations and frontier crossings to welcome those fleeing war and poverty.

But a major backlash swiftly followed. The EU's outer borders have since come back down hard, the so-called Balkan migrant route has shut and anti-migrant sentiment has soared.

Angela Merkel has been a strong voice pushing to continue to accept refugees. Although she won praise at first, the mood has since turned, giving way to fears over how Europe's biggest economy will manage to integrate the million people who arrived last year alone.

Her decision has left her increasingly isolated in Europe, and exposed her to heavy criticism at home, including from her own conservative allies.

While the number of refugees is significant, the real problem is that Europe has lost control of its borders and doesn't know who is coming in.  Germany alone is tracking 500 potential terrorists in its midst, an unknown number of them new arrivals.  Incidents of sexual assault and robbery have skyrocketed in some German cities, coinciding with the arrival of Syrian refugees.

The backlash has been predictable.  If authorities don't care about the safety of their citizens, they'll pay at the ballot box.  A recent German regional election saw Chancellor Angela Merkel's party finish third, while the nationalist AfD party came out on top. 

Too late, most European countries that originally welcomed the refugees with open arms have now severely curtailed the number of new arrivals.  Tusk's warning is too little, too late.