Why Are There So Few Christian Refugees From Syria In The UK?
Posted by addisethiopia on October 7, 2016
Under two per cent of Syrian refugees admitted to Britain since the scheme began are Christian, compared to 97.5 per cent that are Muslim.
Before the war began, an estimated 10 per cent of the population of Syria was Christian. Even now that so many have fled and been displaced, there are still 772,000 Christians in Syria, more than four per cent of the population of 1.86 million.
David Cameron, then Prime Minister, pledged in September last year to take 20,000 Syrian refugees to Britain.
The faith of refugees admitted under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettleent Scheme (VPR) has not previously been made publicly available but Christian Today obtained the figures via a Freedom of Information Request.
Home Office records show that between September 7, 2015 and June 30 this year, 2,659 individuals were resettled under the VPR scheme.
These included 2,592 Muslims and just 51 Christians, four of whom are identified as Eastern Orthodox. There are also three Druze and 13 Yazidis
The end of June is the date of the most recently published statistics.
John Pontifex, head of information at Aid to the Church in Need, a charity that has been active in helping Christians in the region, said he had visited Christian communities in Syria decimated by Daesh, or Islamic State.
He described the underlying fear that the whole community will be wiped out.
“It is clear that in many communities, a very high proportion of Christians have suffered and been forced away. So a disproportionately high number of Christians are in need of help in Syria. The fact that out of 2,659 Syrian refugees resettled in the UK there are only 51 Christians takes no account of the reality on the ground. It takes no account of the high level of suffering inflicted on Christian and other minority groups such as Yazidis that have been specifically targeted and displaced. These figures show their suffering is being ignored.”
He said many Christians slipped through the net because they did not want to register as Christians at refugee camps, as this itself could lead to them being “targeted” in the camps. So they preferred to seek sanctuary in the homes of other Christians, even if that meant sleeping 30 people to a room.
“This highlights the degree to which Christians are being left out. They are unable to claim proper help or to seek asylum in the West,” he said. “This is a community of suffering that has just disappeared below the radar. It is a crying shame, and these figures point to the way the crisis facing Christians, Yazidis and other minority faiths has been completely overlooked.”
Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK told Christian Today that Christians are marginalised in the scheme because many of them feel unable to register through the official UNHCR channels.
He said the answer was to use Church networks on the ground to register the Christians needing resettlement, but at the moment there is no mechanism for that to happen.
He said: “It is not that they cannot register. They do not register. It is almost as if they are anxious about registering for resettlement. They fear this will make it look as though they are not citizens, and do not wish to stay in their own country.”
In addition, they fear that registering for resettlement will make them a greater “target” than they are already, and more vulnerable to persecution.
“To use the local church networks would be ideal. We need to encourage UNHCR to work with local churches to provide registration points.”
He added: “It is very good people are given the opportunity to come to Britain, whether they are Muslim or Christian or whatever their faith is. But Christians need to be encouraged as much as possible to register.”
Christian Today is awaiting a comment from the Home Office.