Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz | Photo: EPA/FLORIAN WIESER
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz | Photo: EPA/FLORIAN WIESER

German NGO Mission Lifeline has referred to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as a ''baby Hitler'' on Twitter after the publication of an interview in which he criticized NGOs rescuing migrants.

The German NGO Mission Lifeline on January 6 described Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as a ''baby Hitler'' on Twitter after the head of government criticized migrant rescue missions in the Mediterranean in an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag

In the interview published on January 5, Kurz said that migrant rescue operations at sea carried out by private organizations cause more deaths. ''The actions of private organizations active in sea rescue operations lead to more deaths'', Kurz told the newspaper. The 33-year-old leader in particular highlighted the ''pull effect'' of rescue operations carried out by NGOs in the Mediterranean, claiming the organizations encouraged more departures, causing an increase in the number of deaths at sea ''as a result''. 

Carola Rackete, a captain of rescue charity ship Sea Watch, commented on Twitter the interview, which was released after Kurz's Austrian People's Party (OVP) reached a deal with the progressive Greens to form a coalition government last week. ''Austria on the path towards a European green fortress? You could describe certain statements as eco-fascist'', wrote Rackete. 

Vienna unwilling to host migrants from Lesbos 

The Austrian chancellor said in the interview that Vienna is unwilling to take in refugees currently hosted in severely overcrowded facilities on Lesbos, as well as on other Greek islands. Asked whether Austria was available to welcome some of the refugees, Kurz replied: ''No, we are not available. Austria over the past few years has given a disproportionate contribution. There were over 150,000 asylum applications in our country, too many for small Austria, in my opinion. We are still working on this. We try to take out of the country those who don't have a right to asylum and who are here illegally and to integrate those who have a right. This is a huge task that we will work on for decades. It must not be aggravated." 

However, he added that Greece, which has urged EU countries to take in refugees and migrants currently stranded in the country, ''deserves better support from the European Union." 

'Agreement with Turkey not functioning well enough' for Vienna 

Asked about the position of the Greens, Kurz replied that the two government allies are on the same page. ''We negotiated for three months exactly about this and we have agreed on the position that has just been illustrated'', he said. 

Speaking about the deal between the EU and Turkey agreed in 2016 to tackle the migrant crisis, the chancellor said ''it doesn't work enough. And Greece deserves our maximum support. We can't be blackmailed by (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan." 

"In his country dissenters are persecuted, journalists are constantly being arrested while migrants and refugees are used like weapons'', he added. Asked whether sea rescue operations can be managed by private organizations, Kurz replied: ''We must not reason on what appears positive but on what is working. A model of private sea rescues doesn't work."

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