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Germany has hit back at Elon Musk after the billionaire businessman waded into the country’s debate on migration.

Musk reshared a post on the platform X, formerly Twitter, that criticized German NGO operations in the Mediterranean for “unloading illegal immigrants” in Italy.

The post also called for a victory for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the next elections.

“There are currently 8 German NGO ships in the Mediterranean Sea collecting illegal immigrants to be unloaded in Italy. These NGOs are subsidized by the German government. Let’s hope AfD wins the elections to stop this European suicide,” the post from an X account with the handle “Radio Genoa” read.

Sharing the post to his 158 million followers on Friday, Musk, who owns the social media platform, wrote: “Is the German public aware of this?”

Hitting back at his comment, the German Foreign Office took to X to write: “Yes. And it’s called saving lives.”

Musk doubled down on his criticism on Saturday, writing in another post: “Frankly, I doubt that a majority of the German public supports this.”

Musk’s comments come with Berlin locked in a spat with Italy over NGO sea operations.

Earlier this month, Germany’s Interior Ministry said it would postpone “until further notice” its intake of migrants coming via Italy under a European voluntary solidarity plan.

Speaking at the sidelines of the 10th summit for MED9 countries on Friday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni warned that problems regarding migration will “never be solved completely if every country thinks of unloading it on another.”

Leaders of the MED9, which includes France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia and Slovenia, gathered in Valletta, Malta, on Friday.

Meloni said she spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday and said it seemed Germany was “taking half a step back.”

“For us redistribution has never been the priority, for me the problem will never be solved completely if every country thinks of unloading it on another. The only way to solve everyone’s problem is the work we’re doing on the external dimension,” Meloni said.

Following Friday’s meetings, the MED-9 released a joint statement outlining the need to “respond rapidly to the recent challenge of increasing arrivals through Mediterranean routes.”

The statement said short and medium-term solutions were needed and called on the European Union (EU) to effectively reduce primary movements and prevent departures, to improve the rate of returns of failed asylum seekers, and to address the root causes of irregular migration.

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty risk the treacherous route in search of safety and better economic prospects.

In many cases, their vessels are overcrowded and unfit for the journey, and the need to rescue migrants on board often leads to disputes between countries about who should take them in.

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