Even though it was almost six years ago, I can still clearly remember when Slovak’s government announced they would accept 149 refugees. Although it had one catch. They all had to be Christians.

The biggest migration crisis in recent history started in 2015 due to the ongoing civil war in Syria and due to the expansion of the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq. More than one million refugees and immigrants crossed into Europe in 2015 which sparked a crisis among the European countries as they were struggling to cope with the influx of asylum seekers. Some of the countries showed loyalty by accepting thousands, even tens of thousands of immigrants (such as Germany, France, or Sweden) whereas some showed almost no support or loyalty at all (for instance Malta, Latvia, Estonia). However, there is one specific country located in the heart of Europe, which managed to bend the EU rules about relocating quotas, Slovakia.

Slovakia, together with the rest of the Visegrad Group countries (V4 – Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic), is infamous for uniting against mandatory relocation quotas given by the EU. In 2018, all the V4 countries vowed to relocate refugees – Czech was supposed to take 2,691 refugees but relocated only 12, Hungary was supposed to accept 1,294 refugees but took none. The same goes for Poland, which planned to accept 7,082 but failed to do so. Slovakia was required to relocate 902 asylum seekers and relocated just 16 of them, all single mothers with children. 

As I previously mentioned, Slovakia managed to bend the EU rules. In 2015, during the biggest influx of asylum seekers, the government had decided to help refugees and accept a few Iraqis. However, there was a catch. They all had to be Christians. No Muslims were welcomed.

Me, born and raised in Slovakia, I remember how all the media was mocking the government for this “rescue mission” plan – Christians from Iraq? That is impossible! Yet, in December 2015 a plane with 25 Iraqi families, who fled their homes due to the threats from the IS, landed in Slovakia. IS gave them two options – either converting to Islam or dying. For them, being strong Assyrian Christian believers, converting was not taken into consideration. For the luckiest ones, passports were arranged thanks to the Mercury One’s Nazarene Fund which raised almost 10 million euros for the evacuation and resettlement process. Before arriving in Slovakia, all the families were displaced for about 15 months within Iraq living in tents in a monastery. Their arrival was delayed twice due to security issues and bombings in the region. 

Even though it was a nice gesture from Slovakia to help very desperate and needy people, the question that should be and most likely popping out in everyone’s brain is – was it right from the Slovak’s government to have such a requirement to accept only Christian refugees in the country? Are Muslims less of a people? Don’t they deserve help? Why should not Iraqi Muslims have the same chance of starting their lives all over again?

Slovakia together with the V4 is well known around the globe for its negative stand on migration and its anti-Islam rhetorics. The officials are often heard talking about preserving the national identity, threat of multiculturalism, or that they are doing us, Europeans, a favor by preventing a caliphate on its territory. Their attitude could be also one of the reasons why immigrants are rarely applying for asylum in Slovakia and the rest of V4 as they are aware that they are not welcomed. According to the latest statistics of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Slovakia is the last (out of 35 developed countries in the world) in the number of people per one million who have applied for asylum. Despite the low number of asylum applications in Slovakia, refugees are often perceived and referred to as a threat. The low number of asylum seekers in Slovakia – 149 Iraqis and 16 single mothers with children – clearly shows Slovakia is not doing everything to assist the rest of the EU countries and is not showing them any support or solidarity with combating one of the worst humanitarian crises. 

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