Slovakia has announced it won’t take in any Muslim refugees when it accepts 200 Syrian asylum seekers under a new resettlement plan.
The eastern European country is due to take in the migrants under an EU scheme to resettle 40,000 people who have fled to its borders over the past few months. However, Slovakia’s interior minister made it pretty clear that only Christians will be accepted, and according to him, this decision has nothing to with discrimination. In fact, he claims the move is aimed at ensuring community cohesion.
As it turns out, the country does not have any mosques. Therefore, the government believes the Muslims won’t feel at home because they won’t have a place to pray in.
“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?” said Interior Ministry spokesman Ivan Metik. “Muslims would not be accepted because they would not feel at home. 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.”
Though the statement is pretty straightforward, it does make one wonder how hard would it be to construct a mosque – or simply find a place where Muslims can worship.
Since EU laws don’t allow member states to ban refugees on basis of prejudice, this decision has been widely criticized. The commission is also facing backlash over the seemingly discriminatory move.
“Resettlement is greatly needed for many refugees who are at extreme risk among the world's most vulnerable groups,” said Babar Baloch, Central Europe spokesman for UNHCR. “We encourage governments to take an inclusive approach while considering refugees for resettlement and should not base their selection on discrimination.”
Although the resettlement plan was initially mandatory, it became voluntary after some nations – including Slovakia – refused to accept set quotas.
As the BBC reports, more than 240,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean this year, due to poverty and instability in Middle East and African Sub-Sahara, arriving on the shores of Greece and Italy before travelling on to other European destinations.
Meanwhile, Germany – the biggest recipient of asylum seekers in Europe – expects to receive as many as 800,000 applicants this year, surpassing its record 438,000 asylum applications in 1992 during the Bosnian crisis.