The Dalai Lama has told a press conference in Sweden that “Europe belongs to the Europeans”, asserting that refugees should be repatriated so they can rebuild their homelands.
Speaking in the multicultural city of Malmö, where nearly half of residents are of foreign background, with Iraqis making up the largest single group, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism said Sweden is seen as “a peaceful, generally prosperous country” with a relatively small gap between rich and poor.
“Spontaneously”, reports Norrköpings Tidningar, the Dalai Lama then “moved on to talk about one of the biggest issues in the Swedish election — the reception of refugees”.
Noting that a large number of immigrants have settled in Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning spiritual leader said it was good for nations to help “a refugee really facing danger against their life”.
“Receive them, help them, educate them… but ultimately they should develop their own country,” said the 83-year-old Tibetan.
“I think Europe belongs to the Europeans,” he added, stressing that countries like Germany and Sweden should make clear that refugees must “return to their homelands and rebuild them”.
Visiting the country to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its international anti-poverty efforts, the Dalai Lama made the comments on Wednesday, three days after Sweden’s general election in which the Sweden Democrats — a party reviled in both local and international media for its opposition to mass migration — gained a record share of the vote.
It is not the first time the Buddhist icon, who is revered by millions of followers around the world, has commented on migration politics in Europe, having previously emphasised the importance of maintaining the continent as a homeland for its native peoples “from a moral point of view too”.
Speaking to Germany’s Frankfurter Allegemier Zeitung newspaper in 2016, the Dalai Lama said refugees “should be admitted only temporarily”, stating he believed that “too many” were in Europe, and adding: “Germany in particular, cannot become an Arab country, Germany is Germany.”