Under a European Union plan to resettle some 40,000 refugees currently in camps in Turkey, Italy and Greece, Slovakia has agreed to accept 200 people – just as long as they are all Christians.
As reported by Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, the Slovakian government has denied its decision to exclude Muslim refugees as discriminatory. Officials say their decision is aimed at ensuring community cohesion.
In an interview with the BBC, Slovakia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Ivan Metik: “We could take 800 Muslims, but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here? We want to really help Europe with this migration wave but… we are only a transit country and the people don’t want to stay in Slovakia.”
Critics, however, disagree with Slovakia’s argument. Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, for instance, said Slovakia is contributing to the failure of Europe, and that the country’s egotism would torpedo the EU’s ability to act.
In response to the controversy, EU Commission spokeswoman Annika Breithard said she could not comment directly on Slovakia’s decision, but emphasised that EU states were not allowed to discriminate.
Not so, according to the United Nation’s refugee agency (UNHCR), which says countries should not discriminate when accepting refugees.
Babar Baloch, Central Europe spokesman for the UNHCR, said: “Resettlement is greatly needed for many refugees who are at extreme risk among the world’s most vulnerable groups. We encourage governments to take an inclusive approach while considering refugees for resettlement and should not base their selection on discrimination.”
The majority of the migrants trying to reach the EU’s borders in recent months are Afghans, Syrians and sub-Saharan Africans. In July alone, the figure reached a record high of 107,500.