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Hillary Clinton calls on Europe to curb migration to halt populists

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling on European leaders to enact stricter immigration policies in order to counter the growing threat of right-wing populism on the continent. 

“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” Clinton told The Guardian in an interview published Thursday, referring to the rise of anti-immigrant politicians across Europe.

“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel," she said, "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 are likely to prove divisive in Europe, where an influx of refugees over the past several years has led to an increasingly polarized political climate, growing fear of terrorism and the emergence of numerous insurgent populist parties.

Merkel has been at the center of that debate in Europe, having first enacted the so-called open-door refugee policy in 2015 that led to thousands of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East to enter Europe. 

The German chancellor last month signaled she would be stepping down from her role amid growing unease over the fallout from her policies. Her decision came as Europe grapples with the rise of anti-immigrant parties in Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and elsewhere. 

Brussels is also dealing with the consequences of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, in a referendum that was heavily swayed by fears over immigration.

Clinton herself lost her presidential bid in 2016 to Donald Trump, who rode to victory in part on an anti-immigrant agenda. Trump's former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has attempted to leave his mark in Europe recently by establishing a new organization based in Brussels meant to promote populist parties across the continent 

“The use of immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity has been very much exploited by the current administration here,” Clinton told the Guardian.

“There are solutions to migration that do not require clamping down on the press, on your political opponents and trying to suborn the judiciary, or seeking financial and political help from Russia to support your political parties and movements.”