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Archbishop intervenes over Iraqi man's asylum claim

27 January 2017


Destroyed: civilians walk in rubble after a battle between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, in eastern Mosul, on Saturday

Destroyed: civilians walk in rubble after a battle between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, in eastern Mosul, on Saturday

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the Home Office to reconsider an asylum claim from an Iraqi Christian who fled persecution by the Islamic State (IS), but who now faces being deported from the UK back to his homeland, The Guardian reported this week.

The man — who is a Syrian Orthodox — told the newspaper on Sunday that Archbishop Welby had written to the Government supporting his application for asylum in the UK after his second appeal was rejected. The claimant is seeking a third appeal, and has been told to report to a Home Office centre every two weeks or risk being held in a detention centre.

The Archbishop was reported to have written in his letter, dated 28 September, that he had “been impressed” by the claimant — “his positive attitude, integrity, and the quality of his work” — and that the man was “clearly someone who wishes to contribute to society. . . He is someone who would be a great asset to the United Kingdom. I strongly endorse [his] desire to seek asylum in the UK.”

Lambeth Palace declined to comment on private correspondence when contacted by the Church Times this week.

More than 144,500 people have been displaced since the start of the Iraqi military operation, backed by the United States and Western allies, to recapture Mosul from IS (News, 7 October), the UN reported this week. Most are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

Tuesday marked 100 days since the start of the operation. The head of Middle East region for Christian Aid, Frances Guy, said: “Since [then], more than 160,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. Many are sheltering in hastily built emergency camps with few resources. But, with only part of Mosul under Iraqi-government control, Christian Aid is equally concerned about the well-being of all those trapped in western Mosul in the midst of the fighting.

“We continue to call for quick humanitarian access to all civilians, and respect for the human rights of all those caught up in the fighting.”

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East has warned of the “terrible suffering” of Christians and Muslims in Iraq at the hands of IS. The director of operations for the charity, Dr Sarah Ahmed, spoke at St Peter’s, Brockley, in south London, last week. “The people we are helping there have lost everything — in some cases even the shoes on their feet. We have met children in the camps who are so traumatised by what they have seen that they have tried to kill themselves.”

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Most Revd Oscar Cantú, told the Catholic News Service that, for RC clerics in Iraq, the answer to the mass flight of peoples was not a safe corridor through the country but reconciliation.

Recounting the remarks of the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, the Most Revd Boutrus Moshe, Bishop Cantú said: “We don’t want to live in a ghetto. That is counterproductive. That makes us a target for our enemies. We have to live in a secure but integrated community where Chaldean Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Sunni Muslims, etc., have relationships with each other. We need an integrated reality, rather than a ‘Gaza’ where there’s a wall, and someone is guarding people going in and out.”

The RC charity Aid to the Church in Need reported that jhadis are using churches in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, to make and store explosives. Fr Sharbil Eeso, of St George’s, Qaraqosh, which has been ransacked and abandoned, said: “Despite all the damage, I have hope for the future. If our security is guaranteed, Christians can continue to live in Iraq. European Christians could do their best to keep us safe. I want to return to Qaraqosh when there is electricity and water again, although I think that safety is the main condition for returning.”

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