BERLIN/PRAGUE (Reuters) - Germany encouraged illegal immigration to Europe with its humanitarian response to the refugee crisis, the Czech prime minister was cited as saying by a German newspaper on Wednesday.
Around 1 million refugees and migrants, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, entered the European Union this year, according to the United Nations. The influx has caused a rift between eastern and western members, who disagree on how to respond.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, through which many refugees have traveled but where very few want to settle, have led in their opposition to compulsory quotas for redistributing asylum seekers across the EU bloc.
“Germany has, for the time being, given precedence to the humanitarian aspects of the crisis over security issues,” Bohuslav Sobotka told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published in its Wednesday edition.
“Germany sent a signal that could be seen and heard in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa,” he added. “That stimulated illegal migration to Europe. Unfortunately that cannot be denied.”
The refugee crisis has divided public opinion in the Czech Republic. Many of the thousands of refugees who passed through Czech territory this year were held in prison-like facilities with poor hygiene and nutrition, prompting strong criticism from the United Nations and other bodies.
Sobotka’s official Twitter account was targeted by what appeared to be hackers from the far right on Wednesday, hours after his interview was published. A spokesman took to Twitter to confirm the hack and said criminal charges would be filed soon.
“Democratic elites are devastating Europe. There is no other way but to take up arms, build a guillotine and take justice into one’s own hands,” a post on Sobotka’s account said.
Then followed messages saying the refugees were an “invasion army”, the women “mothers of future terrorists”.
Sobotka reacted with an emailed statement, saying “If my Twitter is attacked by neonazis, then I take it as an evidence that I am doing a good job.”
Reporting by Paul Carrel in Berlin and Robert Muller in Prague; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky