Dalai Lama says ‘Europe belongs to the Europeans’ and suggests refugees return to native countries

Zamira Rahim

The Dalai Lama has sparked anger after declaring that “Europe belongs to the Europeans”.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader also said that refugees should return to their native countries and assist with developing them.

The 14th Dalai Lama was speaking at a conference in Malmo, Sweden which is home to a large immigrant population, according to the Business Times.

“Receive them, help them, educate them ... but ultimately they should develop their own country,” the 83-year-old said, when speaking about refugees.

“I think Europe belongs to the Europeans.”

He was speaking in the aftermath of a divisive election in Sweden in which a far-right party, Swedish Democrats, made electoral gains, although they were beaten by the country's centre-left coalition.

The Dalai Lama also said that Europe was “morally responsible” for helping “a refugee really facing danger against their life”.

Social media users condemned the comments, calling the Dalai Lama a “bigot of the first order” and a “hypocrite”.

The spiritual leader is followed by millions of Buddhists around the world. He is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but has made controversial comments about refugees in the past.

“Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country,” he said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2016, in which he also said that there were “too many refugees” in Europe.

The Dalai Lama is a refugee himself. He led thousands of his followers from Tibet to India in 1959 after the Tibetans protested against Chinese limits on their autonomy.

The 83-tear-old continues to live in exile in northern India today.