By Sanwar Ali:
Some on the extreme right are using the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) outbreak to spread fear about foreigners. Currently about 70,000 people have become ill and 1,700 people have died mainly in China.
Extreme Right-Wing Parties in Europe encouraging xenophobia
Aurélia Beigneux, an MEP of the French far-right National Rally Party said in an European Parliament debate in early February.
“The free circulation of goods and people, immigration policies and weak controls at the borders obviously allow the exponential spread of this type of virus,”
Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was asked by Beigneux if Europe should introduce land border checks and if immigration should be temporarily be stopped.
Ammon disagreed with this suggestion. The World Health Organisation also warned against restricting travel and trade. EU health ministers have said that free movement in the EU should be safeguarded.
Ethnic Chinese being treated with suspicion in Europe
There has been an increase in abusive behaviour towards those of Chinese ancestry. In Belgium there was an incident when an ethnic Chinese person was asked how many bats she ate. It has been suggested that bats may be a carrier of Coronavirus (COVID-19). They are also looked at with suspicion in the streets.
Belgium’s Health Minister Maggie De Block expressed concern about increasing levels of xenophobia recently:
“In line with European values, I wish to call upon clear actions to fight against any form of stigmatization or racism, including toward Chinese or Asian population in the European Union.”
Italy first EU Country to stop passenger flights from China
Most EU Countries have not banned flights. Italy has banned incoming flights. On 9 February the Czech Republic also banned flights. Apparently China’s ambassador to Italy has complained about the ban.
A number of other Countries have also banned flights from China including Australia, the United States, and Vietnam. Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to China. This is despite WHO World Health Organization stating that this is not necessary.
European Schengen visas becoming available again for Chinese nationals
More Chinese will be able to obtain visits visas to travel to Europe. One month after the novel Coronavirus outbreak some of the Schengen Area Member countries have already reopened most of their visa centres in China. Germany, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland have opened most of their visa application centres in China. Those in Wuhan province will remain closed for the indefinite future.
Most Schengen members have announced their visa centres will reopen on Monday 24 February 2020. Those based in Wuhan will remain closed. How easy it will be to fly out of China remains to be seen.
Chinese suffering the most
Chinese nationals in China are obviously suffering the most. Because of the internal restrictions many millions are being kept away from their families. There continues to be visa restrictions in many cases