UK

Czech President Miloš Zeman Says Refugees Are Like A 'Tsunami That Will Kill Him'

01/09/2015 10:14 BST | Updated 01/09/2015 13:59 BST
Darko Bandic/AP
Refugees from the Middle East are silhouetted against the setting sun as they walk on railway tracks from Serbia, in Roszke, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015. Migrants fearful of death at sea in overcrowded and flimsy boats have increasingly turned to using a land route to Europe through the Western Balkans. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

The Czech President has been criticised for comparing desperate refugees to 'a tsunami that will kill him', as pressure mounts on EU leaders to tackle the continent's growing migrant crisis.

Miloš Zeman was accused of "spreading ignorance and panic" by a leading human rights figure after comments made at a press conference on Sunday about those fleeing their war-torn home nations.

He had suggested that a huge wave of migrants would cripple and destroy the Eastern European country because "refugees will invite their relatives to join them".

"I feel like a tourist on a beach in Thailand who is taking a picture of a small wave in the distance, not knowing that it will kill him," Zeman had told assembled journalists.

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The Czech President pictured, left

But his comments earned him a stinging smackdown from Human Right's Watch's Andrew Stroehlein, the organisation's European media director, who blasted Zeman for "adopting the language of hateful extremists".

"Zeman's comment - like many such comments by EU leaders sadly - is alarmist intolerance at its worst," Stroehlein told The Huffington Post UK.

"EU leaders need to take responsibility and address this situation with effective policy making: first and foremost to prevent avoidable deaths of desperate refugees fleeing horrific situations by providing safe, legal means to get to the EU."

He added: "Adopting the language of hateful extremists and inciting panic will only make things worse and should be beneath all serious political leaders."

Zeman's outburst comes a day after German Chancellor Angel Merkel called on other EU countries to "share the burden" of asylum seekers coming to Europe.

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Merkel arrived for her Summer press conference on Monday

Speaking in Berlin yesterday, she warned that Europe could fail in its duty to uphold "universal civil rights" if it did not properly give refuge to those most in need.

"Europe as whole must move and its states must share the responsibility for refugees seeking asylum," she said on Monday. "If Europe fails on the question of refugees, [its] close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed."

"There's no point in publicly calling each other names, but we must simply say that the current situation is not satisfactory," she added.

EU leaders have been forced into changing tack on how to deal with the influx of migrants - many, refugees fleeing persecution - after tensions at France's 'Jungle' camp in Calais rose last month and the death toll of those who drowned crossing the Mediterranean reached 2,500 last month.

European heads of state convened to discuss the crisis in Austria on the same day that 71 refugees were discovered dead inside an abandoned van in the same country.

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Austria Migrants

Police believe that some 59 men, eight women and four children perished having suffocated in the cramped conditions.

Officers said that blood was seen dripping from the vehicle and a horrendous smell surrounded it, before scores of badly decomposed bodies were discovered inside.

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