Dalai Lama branded ‘hypocrite’ over refugee remarks
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has sparked anger after saying “Europe belongs to Europeans” and that refugees need to return to their countries.
Speaking at a conference in Sweden’s third-largest city of Malmö, which is home to a large refugee population, the 14th Tibetan leader said the refugees should ultimately “develop their own country”.
His remarks set off anger among social media users, who called him a “bigot of the first order” and a “hypocrite”.
The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is followed by millions of Buddhists around the world. Almost a million Rohingya Muslims are now living in the largest refugee camps in the world in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution and violent attacks by Buddhist extremists and government troops in Myanmar.
It was not the first time the Dalai Lama made controversial remarks about asylum seekers.
In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter, back in 2016, he said that there were “too many refugees” in Europe and that “Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country.”
His new remarks come at a time of a rise in nationalist, anti-immigrant sentiments in the Europe countries, in particular in Germany, Austria and Italy.
In Italy, the far-right Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who has taken a tough stance on refugees since taking office in June, has once again made anti-refugee remarks by comparing African immigrants to slaves.
Speaking at a closed-door session of a conference on migration and security in Austria, Salvini said, “I’m paid by citizens to help our young people start having children again the way they did a few years ago, and not to uproot the best of the African youth to replace Europeans who are not having children anymore.”
“The Luxembourg [foreign] minister declared this morning that we need migrants because Europe is ageing. I told him I instead work towards young Italians (and Europeans) returning to bringing children into the world, because we don’t want new slaves,” Salvini said at a Facebook post.
“Your opinion is not mine. Maybe in Luxembourg there’s a need for new immigration but in Italy there’s a need to help people have children,” he added.
Salvini’s remarks drew an angry response from Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who reminded him of Italian migrants working in Luxembourg.
“They came as migrants, who worked in Luxembourg so that you could in Italy had money to pay for your children,” Asselborn said.
Europe has been largely divided over how to share the burden of refugees fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa.
Dalai Lama met alleged abuse victims
The Dalai Lama also met victims of alleged sexual abuse by Buddhist gurus in the Netherlands on Friday.
A group of four people presented the Dalai Lama with written accounts from 12 people, who claimed that Tibetan Buddhist teachers abused them physically or psychologically.
“We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were violated in its name,” they wrote.
“What we want from him is that he is very clear about the fact that religious leaders in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are not above the law,” said Oane Bijlsma, one of the four people who met the Tibetan leader.
The alleged victims, from the Netherlands and Belgium, said that the Dalai Lama pledged to take action but he did not make any comment after the meeting.