Outcry sparked by 'deeply racist' rat poem in Austria

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz walks in front of flags from European nations at an EU summit in March 2019Image source, Reuters
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the poem "deeply racist"

A poem about migration titled The City Rat has drawn condemnation in Austria after it compared humans to rodents.

The poem tells migrants to integrate or "quickly hurry away".

It was written by Christian Schilcher, a deputy mayor from the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), which is part of Austria's ruling conservative coalition.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has demanded that the Freedom Party distance itself from the "abominable" poem.

The poem was published in an FPÖ newspaper in Braunau am Inn, birthplace of Nazi Germany's leader Adolf Hitler.

Mr Kurz told the Austrian Press Agency the poem was "disgusting, inhuman and deeply racist" and had no place in Austria.

"Just as we live down here, so must other rats," the poem states, telling them to "share with us the way of life, or quickly hurry away" and saying that if you mix different cultures, "it's as if you destroy them".

Mr Schilcher - the vice-mayor of Braunau am Inn - said he did not mean to "insult or hurt anyone" with his poem.

He apologised for ignoring the "historically burdened" comparison between rats and humans, saying the poem aimed to describe changes "which myself and others quite rightly criticise" from a rat's perspective.

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, head of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), said such comparisons were "customary in Nazi propaganda".

But Vice-Chancellor and FPÖ head Heinz-Christian Strache wrote in a Facebook post that the "current incitement and campaign" against his party shows their competitors are "especially nervous" ahead of European Parliament elections in May.

The FPÖ has been in coalition with Mr Kurz's conservative People's Party (ÖVP) since 2017 and is among just a few far-right parties to have won power in the EU.