The US administration has just proudly announced that it has hit its target of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees during the current fiscal year (1st October-30th September). However, closer inspection of the Obama administration's figures tell a far more disturbing story. Although the US government accepts that approximately 10% of Syria’s population are Christians and that Christians have been specifically targeted, only 56 of 10,801 Syrian refugees accepted to the US this year have been Christians. Not only that, although the US is now taking in nearly four times as many Syrian refugees as five years ago when the Syria crisis started, the actual number of Christians it is accepting has not increased at all.
|Number of Syrian refugees accepted into the USA||Number of Christian Syrian refugees accepted into the USA||Percentage of Syrian refugees accepted into the USA who are Christians|
|March 2011-Feb 2016||2,815||56||1.98%|
|1st Oct 2015-Feb 2016||942||8||0.8%|
|1st Oct 2015-Sept 2016||10,801||56||0.5%|
In fact virtually all of the Syrian refugees that have been accepted into the USA have been Sunni Muslims, with only 20 Shi’a and 17 Yazidis. This is despite the fact that it is the non-Sunni minorities who are being particularly targeted by groups such as IS and the public recognition by US Secretary of State John Kerry last March that genocide was happening against Christians and Yazidis in Syria.
Similar discrimination exists in a number of other western countries, including the UK, whose governments effectively leave the selection of vulnerable refugees to United Nations officials. At one stage refugees were only being accepted for resettlement from the refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Then in November Barnabas Fund submitted evidence to a parliamentary select committee demonstrating that it was not safe for Christians to live in refugee camps in the region because although theoretically under UN control they are actually controlled by radical Islamist groups. The UN has now agreed to accept refugees who are not living in the camps – not least because the camps cannot contain the huge influx of refugees. However, the tiny percentage of Christians and other non-Sunni minorities accepted for resettlement overseas points to there being a huge issue of institutional discrimination within the UN against Christians and other non-Sunni minorities.
President Obama has claimed to have made social justice central to his administration. Does he really want this blatant discrimination against Syrian Christians who are suffering genocide to be his legacy when he leaves the White House in two months’ time? Mr Ban Ki-moon will also shortly step down as Secretary General of the UN, an organisation that was set up based on the principle of “equal rights”. Both the next US President and the incoming UN Secretary General need to take urgent steps to tackle this institutional discrimination against Christian refugees from Syria.