European Union member Cyprus said Monday it was willing to take in up to 300 Middle East refugees to help ease the crisis facing the EU, but preferred them to be Christians.
It thus joined a growing list of EU nations which have expressed a preference for Christians, rather than Muslims, in their acceptance of asylum seekers.
“We have already stated that 260, a maximum of 300, people can be taken in” by the small eastern Mediterranean island, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos told state radio.
“We would seek for them to be Orthodox Christians … that’s what we would prefer,” he said, adding that this would allow them to “integrate better” with the island’s predominantly Greek Cypriot population.
Hasikos later issued a statement clarifying that other EU members have also said they would prefer to take in Christians and that Cyprus has in the past rescued and received refugees “without discrimination on ethnicity or religion.”
Those other EU members include Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia and possibly Poland. All have claimed their policies are not discriminatory but rather an effort to maintain cultural cohesion.
Slovakia said in August it would not accept non-Christian refugees, with a government spokesman explaining Muslims would not feel at hom in the country, the BBC reported.
“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?” Interior ministry spokesman Ivan Netik said.
Czech President Milos Zeman has also said he does not want to take in immigrants who are not close to Czech culture, Germany’s dpa news agency reported.
“Refugees from a completely different cultural background would not be in a good position in the Czech Republic,” he said recently.
Poland in July took in 50 Christian Syrian families. But the head of the Polish foundation that arranged the asylum with the government has called Muslim refugees a “huge threat” to Poles, according to the Financial Times.
Miriam Shaded explained that Islam was “not a religion” but a totalitarian system full of “criminals.” She added that asylum seekers were “a great way for (Islamic State) to locate their troops…all around Europe.”
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has said that while “we have nothing against Muslims…if other Muslims come from abroad, that radically changes the country’s demography.”
Estonia too has balked at the prospect of Muslim immigration, with social affairs minister Margus Tsahkna explaining that “After all, we are a country belonging to Christian culture.”
Europe has been facing an unprecedented influx this summer of people seeking refuge, many of them from war-torn Syria, and the European Commission is to unveil Wednesday a proposal for mandatory EU quotas to relocate 120,000 refugees.