Italy's request to take migrants "road to hell": Czech PM

The municipal elections were seen as the first test for Czech Prime Minister Babis since his minority cabinet was named in June

Billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Sunday he saw Italy's request that EU peers take some of 450 migrants stranded at sea on two Frontex vessels as "a road to hell."

While France and Malta have already agreed to take 50 each, the Czech government chief held on to his anti-migrant stance which he shares with other leaders in the region including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

"Just like the other EU prime ministers, I got a copy of a letter from Italian Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte... in which he asks the EU to take care of some of 450 people now stranded at sea," Babis tweeted.

"Such an approach is a road to hell," added the 63-year-old Slovak-born populist, whose minority coalition government won a confidence vote Thursday thanks to backing from the Communist Party.

This approach "only motivates smugglers and increases their income. Our country won't take any migrants," Babis added, calling for "a principle of voluntariness."

"We have to help migrants in the countries from which they come, beyond Europe's borders, to stop them from setting out on their journey," said Babis.

Migration is a hot political issue in the Czech Republic, an EU and NATO member of 10.6 million people, where just a handful of refugees have settled since the migrant crisis of 2015.

In an April poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, 58 percent of Czechs said the country should accept no migrants from war-ravaged regions.

Some 35 percent of its 1,115 respondents said it should accept them temporarily and only three percent were willing to let them stay in the country.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's minority government won a confidence vote this week