Slovakia will reportedly refuse to accept Muslim migrants under the EU’s relocation plan. The Ministry of the Interior spokesman was criticized for being discriminatory after saying the aim is to ensure community cohesion
A European Commission spokeswoman said late on Wednesday that Slovakia would not have the right to accept only Christian migrants. The country is due to receive 200 Syrian migrants from camps in Turkey under a EU scheme in which 32,000 people are to be resettled with each member state accepting a certain number.
However, Slovakia will only accept Christian migrants, Ivan Metik, a spokesman for the country's Interior Ministry told the BBC on Wednesday. He said Muslims would not be accepted as they would not feel at home and it would be hard for them to get integrated into society, according to the BBC News. "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?" Ivan Metik was quoted as saying. The U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) called on countries to take an "inclusive approach" to relocation.
Metik, however, maintained that the policy was not discriminatory, claiming that migrants would not wish to remain in Slovakia in any case and the move is intended to ensure community cohesion. Bratislava officials emphasized that the country does not have "any mosques" and a very small Muslim population, which will make it harder for the Muslim community to be integrated.
The Telegraph also claimed that the Slovakian government said it plans to ask the migrants their religion once they have arrived in the country. The European Commission expressed discontent at the plan. Spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt was quoted in U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, warning that discrimination of any kind would not be tolerated under its scheme. "We act here in the spirit of the treaty, which prevents any form of discrimination," Breidthardt said.
An EU source said that turning away Muslims would be "discriminatory and of dubious legality." Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico told Austrian newspaper Der Standard last week that Slovakia should not have to support EU efforts to resettle migrants. "Who bombed Libya?" Fico was quoted as saying, "Who created problems in North Africa? Was it Slovakia? No."
The minister's remarks are not the only example highlighting how the EU's multiculturalism ideals are being challenged by the migrant crisis. Hungary, for example, has been witnessing growing anti-immigration sentiment after seeing an influx of about 130,000 migrants this year. The country is currently building a 4-meter-high fence along the border with Serbia despite the protests asking for more support to refugees seeking asylum in Europe. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is staunchly opposed to immigration from outside Europe, and he has said that Europe's Christian identity is at risk from the large number of migrants. The country also passed new legislation last month that tightens asylum rules and allows the detention of migrants in temporary camps.
Daily Sabah contacted the Slovakian Interior Ministry to confirm the claims and in response the ministry did not deny the claims.
The statement, as a pretext for the discriminatory policy, propounded the argument that Slovakia has a tiny community of Muslim people and does not even have a mosque and therefore they believe it will be a problem for Muslims to integrate into Slovakian society. Yet the statements, seemingly, missed the point that the refugees are not in favor of becoming part of Slovakian society but are seeking a temporary safe haven.
The ministry said they know many Muslims will not stay in the country: "It is nothing against religion and not about discrimination, but it would be very wrong to take more than 1,000 people into Slovakia who do not want to live in the country. Most of them will leave in a few days to Germany, Great Britain or the Scandinavian countries. It's not a solution."
The ministry denied the refugees face discrimination in the country, saying that since 2008, they have collaborated with UNHCR and IOM and have taken 300 people every year from refugee camps in Syria and Turkey, providing them with food, health care, school and accommodation.
The turmoil in the Middle East and the five-year war in Syria have led many people to flee the conflict in an attempt to seek security and shelter in a more prosperous and peaceful country, such as in Europe. Most migrants have arrived from countries with large Muslim populations and a record number of them were tracked entering the EU in July by irregular means, official data showed on Tuesday, reaching 110,000 as the influx continues, notably of Syrians reaching Greek islands from Turkey. The European Union's border control agency Frontex said that it had detected some 107,500 people arriving outside regular channels in July, a sharp increase on the previous record set in June of over 70,000, and more than three times as many as it registered in the same month last year.
The most active frontiers were those of the Greek islands in the Aegean off Turkey, where nearly 50,000 people were recorded arriving by sea, mainly on Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos. Nearly 340,000 such migrants were seen so far this year arriving in the EU, mainly in Italy, Greece and Hungary. That was a 175 percent rise on the same period last year and much more than the 280,000 registered arrivals in all of 2014.
Other EU data shows 625,920 people claimed asylum in the bloc last year. Frontex officials were not immediately available to comment on how far the increase in numbers being detected may be a result of increased monitoring of the frontiers.