The Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism, urged caution on the migration crisis in Europe, saying Tuesday that there are "too many" refugees in the European Union. His statement comes after recent weeks have been fraught with Mediterranean rescues of migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to cross into Europe from Northern Africa.
"When we look at the face of each refugee, but especially those of the children and women, we feel their suffering, and a human being who has a better situation in life has the responsibility to help them. But on the other hand, there are too many at the moment," he said, Agence-France Presse reported. "Europe, Germany in particular, cannot become an Arab country, Germany is Germany," he added.
The spiritual leader, who himself has lived in exile for nearly half a century, has long held somewhat temperate views on Europe's responsibility to help a large asylum-seeking population. When migration to Europe first began to surge in the summer of 2015, the Dalai Lama applauded countries like Austria and Germany that had opened their doors to refugees, while also pointing out the limits of a nation's ability to provide services to thousands of additional people.
"You have to consider many factors, whether you can take care of these people," he said during a visit to the U.K. in September, adding, “You have to be practical.”
More than 1 million people sought asylum in Europe in 2015, with the vast majority of them looking to settle in Northern European countries like Germany and Sweden. Nearly all of the people who arrived in Europe via smugglers' boats throughout the year were bona fide political refugees, according to the United Nations, with around half of them fleeing war-torn Syria.
Arrivals to Europe via Greece have dropped this year, following a deal between the EU and Turkey stipulating that all asylum-seekers risk be returned to Turkey upon arrival to Greece. Meanwhile, at least 46,000 people have crossed into Italy from Northern Africa, with many being rescued at sea and at least 700 having drowned in the past week alone.