30 September 2023

German government and Elon Musk clash over maritime rescue ships

30 September 2023

Germany’s government has rebuked Elon Musk after he criticised the recent work of migrant rescue ships operated by German humanitarian groups in the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Musk shared a video that showed migrants and aid workers on a boat. The right-wing account that first put the content on X, formerly known as Twitter, praised the populist far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has taken a hard line on migration issues.

“Is the German public aware of this?” he wrote in his repost.

The German Federal Foreign Office replied to Mr Musk directly on X, writing: “Yes. And it’s called saving lives.”

The owner of the X platform responded that he doubted the German public supports the actions of non-governmental organisations that take asylum-seekers from unseaworthy vessels in the Mediterranean.

He also claimed it was “surely” a violation of Italy’s sovereignty for German-operated ships to take rescued migrants to Italian territory.

“So you’re actually proud of it. Interesting,” he wrote to the Foreign Office, adding that such maritime operations have “invasion vibes”.

The exchange comes as migration has returned to the political forefront in Germany and other European countries, with government officials and opposition politicians sparring about how to handle an increasing number of arriving migrants.

Cities and communities across Germany have sounded an alarm, saying they are running out of room to accommodate migrants and to provide nursery and school places.

More than 220,000 people applied for asylum in Germany from January to August this year, compared with about 240,000 throughout last year. In 2015-16, more than a million applied.

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