Arab Spring refugees not welcome here, says William Hague

  • @tompeck

Europe is right to shut its borders to refugees and migrants trying to enter the EU in the wake of the Arab Spring, says William Hague, the Foreign Secretary.

European governments must be "tough", Mr Hague said, adding: "We need proper controls. We can't just accept a flow of hundreds of thousands or millions of people into southern Europe and then coming beyond that.

"Clearly, European nations are not able to accommodate those numbers, and so we do have to respond imaginatively for the future, for the economic wellbeing of North Africa so that people can have livelihoods where they are."

Italy, in particular, has seen a flood of people fleeing unrest in Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere, but other countries in the passport-free Schengen zone – in which there is free movement across borders for people and goods – fear that once the migrants are on European soil they may move elsewhere.

Britain is not a member of the 25-country agreement, but last week the Home Secretary, Theresa May, resisted calls from Italy, which has borne the brunt of thousands of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, for other EU countries to "share the burden" of accommodating the new arrivals.

Britain and France have been criticised for intervening in Libya but refusing to take refugees from the conflict there.

Denmark, one of the Schengen states, announced earlier this month that it plans to re-impose controls on its frontiers with Germany and Sweden within weeks.