GABCIKOVO, Slovakia — The next act of
the European refugee crisis will unfold in little places like this one,
where hundreds of Syrian war refugees are coming to live in a town that
just voted by overwhelming numbers to oppose their stay.
Over the past few days, the first of 500 Syrian asylum seekers arrived to take up three-month residency at a state-run dormitory in the center of town.
Last month, as locals watched the news of streams of migrants winding their way through Europe, the town held a special referendum: 97 percent voted to oppose reopening the Slovak government’s refugee facility.
“We’re not haters,”said Zoltan Jakus, one of the organizers of the vote. “But I think this will end badly.”
The residents of Gabcikovo wonder why wars and unrest thousands of miles away, involving Muslims, should be their business.
Gabcikovo is a town of 5,000 residents, where pensioners ride bicycles along quiet lanes lined with sturdy houses, many with overflowing gardens and ceramic gnomes, where everybody knows not only your name, but also what football club you support and what beer you drink. Most of them speak Hungarian and are Catholic.
The people of Gabcikovo say they are not cold-hearted or racist, but they are clearly worried, and many of them are asking the same questions as other Europeans who feel uneasy about the rising numbers of war refugees and economic migrants.
“Who are these people? Where do they come from? Why are they here?” said Daniel Koczkas, 27, who works at a coffee distributor and has lived in Gabcikovo all his life.
He waved a greeting to his mother, who was passing by on her bicycle. “We have no problem with different colors,” Koczkas said, “but we don’t know them.”