The Dalai Lama told a Swiss audience that refugees should return home and help to develop their native countries instead of fleeing for other countries’ shores, because, as he put it, “Europe belongs to Europeans.”
While the Buddhist spiritual leader from Tibet acknowledged that Europe had a responsibility to help refugees, he also emphasized that they must also do their part, according to the U.K.’s The Sun.
The 83-year-old, who himself fled Tibet in 1959 in fear of his life and today lives in exile in India, spoke at a conference in Malmö, Sweden.
He said, “Receive them, help them, educate them. But ultimately they should develop their own country.”
“I think Europe belongs to the Europeans,” he continued in the controversial address, adding that it should be made clear to refugees that “they ultimately should rebuild their own country.”
Europe has been grappling with increasing numbers of refugees — and the issues they often bring with them.
Sweden, for example, had to begin examining asylum seekers’ teeth and knee joints back in 2016 in efforts to verify their ages.
The process, which was first announced in September of that year, came after repeated instances of young, mainly male adult Muslim migrants reportedly posing as children.
The Dalai Lama, meanwhile, was in Switzerland to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tibet Institute Rikon when he made his remarks — which raised some eyebrows.
It’s not the first time the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner has advocated for refugees and migrants to return home to their native countries.
The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported that when he was speaking to the German press back in 2016, he said, “Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country. Germany is Germany. There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.
He said that they should be helped in order to return to the native lands.
The Dalai Lama also said, “When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering. A human being who is a bit more fortunate has the duty to help them.”
“On the other hand,” he noted, “there are too many now.”
“From a moral point of view, too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily,” he continued.
He later clarified his feelings of sympathy and compassion for those fleeing war, but said that they should be helped in order to return to the native lands.
The Dalai Lama currently has 18.7 million followers on Twitter.