Hillary Clinton (Getty)

  • Hillary Clinton is facing a backlash after arguing that European leaders should seek to assuage the concerns of a growing right-wing populism across the continent by refusing to offer "refuge and support" to migrants.
  • "Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message - 'we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support,'" Clinton said in an interview published this week.
  • The former secretary of state's comments were met with widespread condemnation from immigration advocates and some politicians around the world.

Hillary Clinton is facing backlash for arguing that European leaders should try to assuage the concerns of a growing right-wing populism across the continent by refusing to offer "refuge and support" to migrants.

"I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame," Clinton said in an interview with The Guardian that was conducted before the US midterm elections and published this week.

The former secretary of state said that while she admired the generosity of leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened up the country's borders in 2015 as migrants fled war and political crises in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, she thought it was "fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message - 'we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support' - because if we don't deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic."

Many on both sides of the Atlantic viewed Clinton's comments as a capitulation to right-wing populism. A wide array of immigration activists and scholars, pundits, and politicians expressed shock and concern with Clinton's comments, which some said appeared to contradict her 2016 campaign position on welcoming immigrants and refugees.

"The moment we give in to right populism is the moment we lose," tweeted David Lammy, a Labour Party politician. "Let us stand not against migrants, but in unapologetic solidarity with them. They give so much to our economy, culture and way of life."

Clinton's position also highlights the Democratic Party's lack of clarity and consensus on the issue of immigration.

"Deeply misguided and unfortunate comment from someone who must know better," Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington tweeted.

More than 1 million migrants arrived in the European Union in 2015, but migration to the continent has dropped sharply since then - fewer than 100,000 people have made it to Europe's shores this year - in part because of the policies of deterrence that Clinton is now promoting.

Clinton argued that Trump effectively exploited both racist, anti-immigrant sentiment as well as legitimate grievances about border security in his 2016 victory and during his presidency.

"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," she said.

Anti-immigrant candidates have taken power in Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Austria over the past few years, while a right-wing party has seen a surge in popularity in Germany.

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