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Iraqis struggle to find refuge in Europe.

ICC Note:

“In March, the Council of Europe, formally addressed the plight of Middle Eastern Christians for the first time… stating that the council will monitor religious violence in the Middle East, offer some individuals religion-based asylum, and help relocate Christian refugees,” Christianity Today reports.

By Ruth Moon

4/4/2011 Iraq (Christianity Today) – The governments of the Netherlands, Great Britain, and other European countries have refused asylum to many Iraqis, including thousands of individual Christians. But this year, evangelical leaders and human rights groups are pushing to resettle Christian refugees in groups to help them maintain their church identity.

The stream of Christian refugees from Iraq and surrounding countries has increased in recent years, though exact numbers do not exist because refugees are not counted by religious affiliation, said Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, the European arm of the American Center for Law and Justice.

United Nations estimates average 1.4 million refugees from Iraq, and half of those may be Christian, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom and speaker on human rights for the World Evangelical Alliance.

After a high-profile church attack in Baghdad killed 58 in late October amid renewed violence against Christians, some church leaders are urging Iraqi Christians to leave their country.

Last month, the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe, an organization devoted to European unity, formally addressed the plight of Middle Eastern Christians for the first time.

In early November, the un refugee agency recommended that European states not force refugees to return to Iraq until security and human rights situations substantially improve. The Iraqi Christian minority, including 5,000 Christians displaced from the city of Mosul in early 2010, is listed among at-risk Iraqi groups.

As these Christians decide where to go next, many are turning to Europe rather than surrounding Middle Eastern countries.

Christians face kidnapping, arbitrary arrest, torture, and other difficulties in Iraq, said Yara Hussein, legal adviser for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan. And of the surrounding countries, only Egypt and Turkey have signed the UNHCR Refugee Convention but with heavy restrictions, she said.

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