Elon Musk gets into German debate over migration

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Tesla CEO and Twitter owner Elon Musk attends the VivaTech conference in Paris

Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, gestures as he attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris, France, June 16, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

BERLIN, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Billionaire Elon Musk waded into German politics on Friday, sharing the post of another account on his social media platform X that attacked the government’s handling of illegal migration and backed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Migration has become a hot topic of debate in Germany ahead of elections on Oct. 8 in the states of Bavaria and Hesse, and in Europe at large ahead of European parliamentary elections next year.

The post shared by Musk came from an account identified as Radio Genoa. It criticized the German state for funding charities rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and included videos of rescue missions. “Let’s hope the AfD wins the elections to stop this European suicide”, it read.

Critics of the charities accuse them of encouraging people to make the dangerous crossing — something they deny.

Musk, whom Forbes magazine ranks as the world’s richest person with a fortune of about $250 billion and is the CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla (TSLA.O) and rocket launch company SpaceX, has increasingly injected himself into politics of late.

On Thursday, he paid a visit to the Texas border with Mexico to meet with local politicians and law enforcement and obtain what he called an “unfiltered” view of the U.S. immigration situation.

Germany’s centre-left government confirmed this week that it was financially supporting three German non-governmental organizations that operate in the Mediterranean and regularly bring migrants to Italy.

The news angered Italy’s rightist government, which is struggling to deal with a sharp increase in migrant flows since it took office a year ago.

“Is the German public aware of this?” Musk asked.

“Yes. And it’s called saving lives,” the German foreign ministry replied in a post.

Mounting worries over migration look set to boost the populist, anti-migrant AfD, which is already riding high on concerns about the economic slowdown and the green transition as well as anger at government infighting. The party is currently second in nationwide polls.

Musk’s interest in the immigration issue intersects with his own business interests. Tesla’s Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg in Germany produces the Model Y vehicle and battery cells. In Texas, Tesla operates a plant in Austin and Space X operates a major testing and launch facility on the Texas Gulf Coast in Boca Chica near Brownsville.

At his visit to the Mexico-U.S. border on Thursday, Musk, dressed in a black T-shirt, black cowboy hat and aviator-style sunglasses, urged a two-pronged approach to overhauling U.S. immigration laws in a video-selfie posted to X, formerly Twitter, which he purchased last April.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Andreas Rinke; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Chief correspondent covering political and general news in Germany with experience in Argentina and in Cuba leading Reuters’ broader Caribbean coverage.

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