HIAS Disturbed by Slovakia’s Discriminatory Refugee Policy

NEW YORK – In response to reports that Slovakia will admit 200 Syrian refugees, but restrict admissions to Christian (aka non-Muslim) refugees, Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees of all faiths, said the following:

“Welcoming refugees is commendable, and wanting them to feel comfortable is important, but in our efforts to provide refuge to the world’s most vulnerable, we must remind ourselves that it is fear of the other that leads to ethnic and religious strife in the first place. We need to challenge and conquer those fears, not succumb to them.

“This is what we at HIAS and our network of Jewish Family Service agencies have done in seeking to protect refugees and asylum-seekers of any and all faiths. All people regardless of faith or ethnicity deserve to be treated as humans, live in safety and experience freedom, and reclaim and rebuild their lives.”

The news also broke today that Macedonia has declared a state of emergency to block thousands of migrants, most of whom are fleeing conflict in Syria, from entering via its border with Greece. Last month, HIAS’ Mark Hetfield published an op-ed in Al Jazeera America, discussing xenophobia in Greece toward migrants, and how Greece has become a dangerous, tenuous place for migrants to reside.

He wrote, “Should borders with Macedonia close in response to the dramatic increase in migration, an even greater crisis is likely to unfold as thousands of unwelcome asylum seekers become stranded in Greece and risk being sent back.”


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