French right-wing presidential hopeful Valerie Pecresse on Saturday slammed the EU's "sieve-like" borders for allowing migrants to enter undetected and backed calls for barbed-wire fences to prevent them crossing illegally into the bloc.
Pecresse, whom polls show as President Emmanuel Macron's top challenger in the April 2022 election, rammed home her position during a visit to a migrant camp on the Greek island of Samos.
"We cannot have a sieve-like Europe, a supermarket Europe where you enter and leave as you please," the conservative politician, who styles herself as a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel, said.
The Samos camp is one of three new migrant facilities on Greece's Aegean islands, which acted as a gateway to the EU for over one million asylum seekers in 2015. Most were Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan, arriving by boat from Turkey.
The new camps come with barbed-wire fencing, surveillance cameras, X-ray scanners and magnetic gates that are closed at night.
Built with EU funds, they offer a greater level of comfort, including running water, toilets and more security, than the dingy tented camps they replaced.
NGOs and aid groups have however voiced concern about the confinement of migrants in the camps.
During Pecresse's visit, a dozen Somali migrants protested over being stuck in what they called "a detention camp".
But the 54-year-old head of the Greater Paris region was full of praise for the facility, calling it a "model" for Europe that blended "firmness" and "humanity" and helped reduce the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
She accused the centrist Macron, who is currently tipped to win a second term, of sweeping the issue of migration "under the carpet".
"A wall is not the solution, but it can be the answer," she declared, calling for the EU to fund the construction of barbed-wire border fences in countries with external EU borders.
Polls show immigration as one of French voters' top concerns.
Pecresse has been accused of chasing far-right votes by taking a tough line on immigration and crime, issues which she claims are linked.