The Dalai Lama has officially weighed in on Brexit. In an interview with BBC, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said, “I’m [an] outsider, but I feel [it is] better [to] remain in the union.”
The Dalai Lama emphasizes that he admires the spirit of the European Union; which is why it is better for Britain to remain in the EU.
South Asia Correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan interviewed the spiritual leader in his residence in Northern India. This is the first time Dalai Lama expressed his position about Brexit since his comments on the “immigration issue” blew up in 2018.
Brexit was prompted due to the increasing number of immigrants in European countries. In 2011, there is a 6.1% increase in foreign-born residents in England and Wales. The growth is problematic because Britain cannot control the influx of immigrants whose entry points are outside of Britain but within the EU.
Correspondent Vaidyanathan further pressed the Tibetan head monk about his opinion on immigration. She cites an incident when Leave.EU, an unofficial Brexit campaign, used the Dalai Lama’s quote about immigrants’ situation.
The quote says, “The goal should be that migrants return and help rebuild their countries. You have to be practical… it’s impossible for everyone to come.”
To which, the Dalai Lama responded, “The European Countries should take these refugees, and give them education and training, and then aiming [sic] is [to] return to their own land.”
“And if these people want to stay in Europe, shouldn’t they be allowed to?,” probed Vaidyanathan.
The Dalai Lama responds, “Limited number… OK. But whole Europe, eventually become[s a] Muslim country? Impossible. Or [an] African country? Also, impossible.”
According to a report from The Guardian, a representative for the Dalai Lama has confirmed that the spiritual leader did not give any permission for his words to be used in the Brexit campaign.
The Dalai Lama also discusses his opinions on Trump, Talks with China, and possible female successor in the interview.
The Dalai Lama says, “Too Many Refugees”
In September last year, the Dalai Lama’s comments about Europe having “too many refugees” in a conference in Malmo, Sweden. He further states that “Europe belongs to Europeans” and has encouraged refugees to return to their homeland to rebuild.
Similar to the Tibetan head monk’s explanations in his recent BBC interview, he also stressed Europe’s moral responsibility to help those refugees.
“Receive them, help them, educate them… but ultimately, they should develop their own country,” the Dalai Lama adds.
During the time the Tibetan leader shared his comments on immigrants, Sweden Democrats, known for their anti-immigration stand, had increased seats in their general elections last September 9, 2018. The party won 62 seats with an increase of 13 seats from the previous election. However, it is still not enough as it comes third to the Social Democratic Party and The Alliance Party, respectively.
In 2015, Sweden reportedly approved the most refugees per capita with a total of 163,000 people seeking asylum.
The Dalai Lama, a refugee
The Dalai Lama’s comments about Europe accepting “too many refugees” seems to be a contradiction to his teachings in altruism.
Altruism is the belief of selfless concern for the well-being of others. Other countries’ acceptance of refugees can be viewed as an act of altruism because the country’s action to help others outweighs their own need to serve itself.
Many felt that Dalai Lama’s “too many refugees” comments meant that the EU should stop receiving refugees altogether, especially when he and other Tibetans are also refugees in India since 1959.
The Press Office of the Dalai Lama has clarified that the Dalai Lama’s comments were taken out of context. According to the press release, the Dalai Lama emphasizes on the want of refugees to go back to their own homeland.
The Dalai Lama takes his and other Tibetan’s current situation as an example. Though they are currently residing in India, they would like to return to their own homeland to rebuild it. He emphasizes that each country has its own culture, language, and way of life.
According to The Guardian, the Dalai Lama talks about his hopes to return to Tibet. “If an opportunity for my return arises, or at least for a short visit, that would be a source of great joy.”