Alton queries absence of Christians from UK’s saved Syrian refugees
Lord David Alton of Liverpool has urged the Home Secretary to address widespread claims of discrimination against the religious minorities of
The Catholic life peer made his call in response to reports that there have been no Christians among the 1,112 Syrian refugees resettled in the UK so far this year.
The UK Home Office released figures on Syrian refugees resettled in the UK for the first quarter of the year – 1st January to 31st March 2018 – following a Freedom of Information request from Barnabas Fund.
According to the aid agency, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, including only four Christians, making up only 0.29 per cent of the overall total. No Yazidis were recommended by the UN.
However, the Home Office agreed to resettle 1,112 (82 per cent) of the recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees and refused all recommendations of Christians.
In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Lord Alton highlighted the seemingly biased figures and pointed out that last year the UNHCR recommended 7,060 Syrian refugees for settlement in the UK, with only 25 Christians (0.35 per cent) among them. However, the Home Office only accepted 11 Christians, meaning that Christians made up only 0.23 per cent of Syrian refugees resettled in the UK last year.
‘There is widespread belief, justified or not, among the religious minorities of Syria that the UNHCR is biased against them. The UK has a legal obligation to ensure it does not turn a blind eye to either direct or indirect perceived discrimination by the UN,’ Lord Alton writes in the letter to Mr Javid, as seen by The Universe.
‘It is widely accepted that Christians, who constituted around 10 per cent of Syria’s pre-war population, were specifically targeted by jihadi rebels and continue to be at risk.
‘Yet out of more than 1,000 Syrian refugees resettled in the UK this year there was not a single Christian. As last year’s statistics more than amply demonstrate, this is not a statistical blip. It shows a pattern of discrimination that the Government has a legal duty to take concrete steps to address,’ he added.
Picture: Syrian refugees in eastern Lebanon close to the Syrian border. (Stefan Rousseau/PA).