Slovakia Will Only Accept Christian Asylum Seekers, Not Muslims

Only Christian asylum seekers will be allowed to settle in Slovakia, according to a spokesperson for the country's Interior Ministry, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, who has said that Muslim asylum seekers would not feel at home in Slovakia due to a lack of mosques.

The central European country is due to receive 200 migrants and asylum seekers who are currently living in temporary camps in Turkey, Italy and Greece under an EU relocation scheme that will eventually see 40,000 asylum seekers settled across Europe, in an effort to ease the burden on Italy and Greece. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that in July this year 50,242 people, mostly fleeing the civil war in Syria, arrived in Greece compared to 43,500 for the whole of last year.

Slovakia's Interior Ministry spokesman, Ivan Metik, told the BBC: "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?

"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," he continued.

The Interior Ministry spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal: "In Slovakia, we don't have mosques," adding: "We only want to choose the Christians."

Yet his comments have prompted a furious response from other European countries. Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German government's foreign affairs committee, told radio station Deutschlandfunk that Slovakia's behavior is contributing to the failure of Europe, and that the country's egotism would torpedo the EU's ability to act, according to Deutsche Welle newspaper.

The Slovakian government has said it plans to ask the migrants their religion on arrival, according to the Telegraph newspaper. Babar Baloch, central Europe spokesman for the UNHCR, has called on European governments to take an "inclusive approach" to resettlement.

EU Commission spokeswoman Annika Breithard said in a press conference yesterday: "We do not comment on comments and we will not enter into hypothetical discussions. Above all, let us not forget that we are talking about people. People like you and I, who happen to be less fortunate than us. Member states have a full obligation to respect and comply by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rules of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS)."

The EU resettlement scheme, originally intended to enforce mandatory quotas on European countries to help ease the numbers of asylum seekers and migrants in Greece and Italy, was set up in the wake of the mass drowning in the Mediterranean Sea of people attempting to reach Italy from Libya in April. Around 700 people drowned when the boat they were sailing in overturned.

The scheme had to be made voluntary after some European countries made it clear they were opposed to enforced quotas. While Germany, Sweden, and Austria are in favor of the plan, France, Spain and other countries in central and eastern Europe have remained staunchly opposed. Britain and Denmark have refused to accept any of the 40,000 as they have an opt-out from European asylum policy.

Metik denied that his comments are discriminatory, but rather that they are intended to maintain social cohesion within Slovakia.