“Receive them, help them, educate them… but ultimately they should develop their own country,” said the 83-year-old Nobel Peace laureate in the southern Swedish town of Malmo on the first leg of his European trip.
“I think Europe belongs to the Europeans,” said the 14th Dalai Lama, adding that refugees “ultimately should rebuild their own country”.
Dalai Lama on Arab refugees in 2016
Ironically, the Dalai Lama is a refugee himself who fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
However, this is not the first time the Dalai Lama has railed against refugees. At the peak of the refugee crisis in 2016, he said “there are too many refugees in Europe”.
“Europe, and for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country,” he said during the same interview.
Germany let in around a million migrants in 2015, mostly fleeing war in the Middle East.
“From a moral point of view, too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily,” said the spiritual leader who has lived in exile for almost six decades in the north Indian town of Dharamsala where his followers run a government in exile and campaign for Tibet’s autonomy.
An estimated 120,000 Tibetans live in India.
Timing and location
The Tibetan spiritual leader made these comments in Sweden and only three days after the Nordic country’s general election in which Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with roots in white supremacy made the largest gain among all parties.
The far-right Sweden Democrats won 17.6 percent of the vote, up from 12.9 in the previous election, as the two major political blocs have reached a stalemate to form a government. Sweden, a country of 10 million people, took in 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015, the most migrants per capita of any European country which led to the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment.
The Dalai Lama made anti-immigration comments in a country which used to be one of the most liberal countries in the world and now is in a political quagmire due to the rise of the far-right.
The city where the Dalai Lama addressed a crowd on “The Art of Happiness and Peace” is also significant. 53 percent of the population of Malmo has a foreign background, according to Statistics Sweden. At least 150 languages are spoken in the coastal Swedish city where people from 170 countries live together.
The Dalai Lama is on a four-nation trip in Europe where right-wing nationalist parties are sweeping to power country after country leaving the bloc divided. Such comments by a spiritual leader who preaches peace and non-violent resistance can only yield intolerance in an already polarized continent after the refugee crisis.
Semantically speaking, “Europe belongs to the Europeans” alludes to far-right nationalist slogans.
In Poland, the far-right fascist group, ONR chants Polska dla Polakow – Poland for Poles – during their marches.
In Sweden, the far-right groups, including Sweden Democrats have long used Bevara Sverige Svenskt – Keep Sweden Swedish. The Georgian Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-immigration group, Georgian March, also says “Georgia for Georgians”. And the most famous of all probably, Nur für Deutsche – “Only for Germans”.
European experience with slogans based on exclusion has claimed millions of lives during the World War Two. Adopting and promoting such rhetoric runs counter to the essence of peace and love which His Holiness preaches!
Rohingya Muslim refugees
The Dalai Lama, unlike many of his fellow Nobel laureates, was not very vocal in condemning the Myanmar’s military atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims. Last year, some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from the mostly Buddhist Myanmar.
The Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu who co-authored a book with the Dalai Lama on joy and happiness strongly condemned the Myanmar’s military crackdown, calling it “ethnic cleansing”.
Three female Nobel Peace Prize laureates Irish Mairead Maguire, Tawakkol Karman from Yemen and Iranian Shirin Ebadi visited Rohingya refugee camps in February. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, repeatedly condemned the “shameful” treatment of the Rohingya Muslims.
However, the Dalai Lama took a soft line with the Buddhists in Myanmar.
“Those people who are harassing some Muslim then they should remember Buddha. I think such circumstances Buddha helping, definitely help to those poor Muslims. So, still I feel that. So very sad, very sad,” he said.
Those were not simply harassing Muslim. They burned their villages, raped women and committed mass killings in an operation which the U.N. has described as ethnic cleansing.