"If Syrians take the boat to Greece they are economic migrants"

The leader of Belgium's largest party, Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalist), has said that he does not see the photograph of baby Aylan as the ultimate argument in favour of open borders. Mr De Wever was speaking in an interview with the daily Het Laatste Nieuws.

Photographs of the dead toddler washed up on a Turkish beach have had a tremendous impact on public opinion in Europe. The boy, a refugee from the war in Syria, died as he tried to reach the European Union together with his family.

Mr De Wever, the leader of the governing Flemish nationalists, told Het Laatste Nieuws that he wouldn't allow people to make him feel guilty: "When I see the photo of the dead toddler, my father's heart bleeds, but I do not allow emotion to take control of me."

"Emotionally I'm touched, but rationally I don't accept such a photo as the ultimate argument in favour of open borders. Are you without a heart if as a politician you look a little further than the first emotional reaction and say that a policy of open borders is not justified?"

"You are a war refugee until you cross the first border and arrive somewhere where you are safe. For Syrians this is the Turkish border. If Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans take the boat to Greece and travel to Germany via Hungary, then they are economic migrants."

The N-VA leader believes that the refugees are seeking more than a safe life, but also a better one: "That's something I understand, but don't start your TV News bulletin with the sad, contrite tiding of a child that has died fleeing war and violence. No, this child died because its parents were looking for a better, economic future."