An official information request submitted to the New Zealand government by one of our supporters has revealed further evidence of the institutional discrimination against Syrian Christian refugees by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The government’s response to the request, made under New Zealand’s Official Information Act, revealed that 383 Syrian refugees were resettled in New Zealand in 2016 either as part of its annual refugee quota or additional emergency intake of Syrian refugees. However, only 6 of these were Christians (1.5%) while the remaining 377 (98.5%) were Muslims.
What is particularly striking is that the percentage of Christians resettled in NZ last year is identical to that of Syrian refugees resettled to the UK last year – and both countries only accept Syrian refugees who have been directly referred to them by the UNHCR.
This is despite it being widely accepted that 10% of Syria’s pre-war population were Christians. In fact, this is stated in the NZ government’s own factsheet providing advice for those seeking to help Syrian refugees adjust to NZ.
It is also, of course, widely accepted that Christians have been specifically targeted and even faced genocide at the hands of jihadists in Syria.
The figures also shine further light on the US situation which has been subject to so much, often ill- informed, controversy. Unlike NZ and the UK, the USA takes Syrian refugees both directly and via UNHCR referrals. However, the percentage of Syrian Christian refugees taken in 2016 was only half that of NZ and the UK (121 out of 15,391 - i.e. 0.78 of one percent), suggesting that there is also a problem of institutional discrimination against Christians in the US refugee admissions.