“All the NGOs involved in this report state that the vast majority of Christians and other [non-Muslim] ‘minorities’ avoid UNHCR camps and facilities because of continuing discrimination and persecution,” the report said, adding: “It is utterly unacceptable that a place of sanctuary should be a place of fear that repels those it is designed to save and protect.”
However, the report said those who remain outside UNHCR camps “have fared … unequally in the allocation of international aid, funding, political support, media attention, and asylum placements.”
The 88-page report, published by World Watch Monitor (an agency which “reports the story of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith”) said all the NGOs involved in the report stated that the vast majority of Christians and other “minorities” avoid UNHCR camps and facilities because of continuing discrimination and persecution, so they do not qualify to receive aid.
Noting that it is UNHCR policy not to record refugees’ religious affiliation, the agencies urged the UNHCR to scrap its “need not creed” approach and acknowledge the particular experiences of minorities such as Christians or Yazidis.
They also urged the UNHCR to employ more non-Muslim registration and security staff, and translators, to reduce discrimination against non-Muslims.
The report contained accounts of Christian refugees approaching UNHCR and being referred to local churches rather than being processed in the same way as other applicants. In addition, it said some NGOs which are assisting Christians to leave the region have encountered opposition from the UNHCR either through unnecessary delays or blocked applications.
The report also warned that Christians are being excluded from the National Settlement plan being put together by Iraq and other regional powers and presented to the United Nations, further eroding the likelihood of their return once Islamic State has been militarily defeated there.
What the UK agencies reported about UNHCR camps was reiterated in an article by Samuel Tadros on the ABC [Australia] Religion and Ethics website on January 31, 2017.
“The prioritization of religious minority application is not only justified, but would also correct a current wrong,” he wrote. “Out of 14,460 Syrian refugees admitted into the United States since 2011, only 182 have belonged to religious minorities – namely, 124 Christians, 25 Yazidis, 6 Zoroastrians, 3 atheists, 2 Baha'is, 14 ‘other’ and 8 with no religion. The reason for such a negligible number of religious minorities is that the United States government depends on the United Nations for choosing applicants from the refugee camps, and religious minorities fear living in those camps as they are subjected to persecution, preferring instead to go to church-run camps.”
An earlier article by Tadros, a senior fellow at the [US] Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, appeared on the same website on December 12, 2016.
Referring to Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria, he wrote: “Unfortunately there is no longer any Christian presence in a specific geographic location that would allow the creation of a safe haven or a country of their own. There is simply no place for them, no mountain for them, that would protect them.”
The director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, reported on December 8, 2016, that persecuted Iraqi Christians had been unable to find shelter in UNHCR refugee camps anywhere in the region.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
She wrote: “Monsignor John Kozar of the pontifical Catholic Near East Welfare Association, run by the NY Archdiocese, told a New York conference on Dec. 5 that Christians don’t dare enter UNHCR camps for they would be targeted by Islamic gangs within them. John Pontifex, a director of the papal agency Aid to the Church in Need, emailed me that he visited a UNHCR registered camp in Lebanon, from where, he discovered, all the Christian refugees had fled in fear, opting instead for the cramped but safer quarters of a nearby Christian home.”
In a Wall Street Journal article on October 7, 2016, Shea wrote that the UNHCR had marginalized Christians and others targeted by ISIS for eradication in two critical programs: refugee housing in the region and refugee-resettlement abroad.
Shea added: “Citing reports from many displaced Christians, a January report on Christian refugees in Lebanon by the Catholic News Service stated: ‘Exit options seem hopeless as refugees complain that the staff members of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are not following up on their cases after an initial interview.’ This failure could be another example of why the U.N. Internal Audit Division’s April 2016/034 report reprimanded the UNHCR for ‘unsatisfactory’ management…
“As for why so few Christians and Yazidis are finding shelter in the UNHCR’s regional refugee camps, members of these groups typically say they aren’t safe. Stephen Rasche, the resettlement official for the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese in Erbil, Iraq, told Congress last month that in Erbil ‘there are no Christians who will enter the UN camps for fear of violence against them’…
“Persecuted groups also found no help from the UN-established Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria in its only report on ISIS genocide. Issued in June, the report focused solely on persecuted members of the Yazidi faith. The commission – an influential adviser to the UNHCR – dismissed in a short paragraph the notion that Christians also have been targeted for genocide.”
In an earlier article (July 21, 2016) Shea had written: “Today there is a complete absence anywhere in ISIS-controlled territory of functioning churches, active clergy, and intact Christian communities.