- Austria’s interior minister, who is a member of the Nazi-linked Austrian Freedom Party, suggested “concentrating” refugees into special centres.
- Many were outraged that a member of a Nazi-linked party would invoke terminology used in the Holocaust.
- Austria is the only western European country with a far-right party in government.
Austria’s Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, who is a member of the Nazi-linked Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), caused outrage on Thursday for suggesting asylum seekers should be “concentrated” into special centres, the BBC reported.
Kickl told reporters at a news conference that he supports creating “basic services centres and suitable infrastructure that enables us to concentrate people in the asylum process in one place.”
Many were outraged that a member of a Nazi-linked party would invoke terminology used in the Holocaust, where millions of Austrian and European Jews were rounded up and killed in concentration death camps.
When questioned by reporters on his questionable choice of words, Kickl said there was no need create a “semantic discussion,” and claimed he did not mean to provoke anyone.
The Freedom Party was founded by former Nazis after WWII, and still maintains right-wing nationalist views.
Members of Austria’s parliament were swift to criticise Kickl’s statements, Reuters reported.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen pledged to work against anti-Semitism in the country.
“I will work to ensure for the duration of my tenure that destructive nationalism, xenophobia, right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism have no place in Austria,” Van der Bellen said, in response to a letter penned by Holocaust survivors concerned about Kickl’s comments.
Austria’s ruling party struck a coalition deal in December to share power with the FPO, making it the only western European country with a far-right party in government. The FPO now controls the foreign, interior and defence ministries.
Austria has been dealing with an influx of asylum seekers since it received 90,000 applications in 2015. Austria’s new government has pledged to cut benefits for refugees and create stricter guidelines for new arrivals – including taking their phones and money.
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