French Immigration Minister Eric Besson today defended his country’s decision to allow a number of wounded Iraqi Christians to relocate to France as refugees and said nearly 100 more will be allowed in the new few days.
The move to accept the refugees sparked an angry rebuke from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said that despite the intentions they were “encouraging” Christians to flee from Iraq by making it so easy to request asylum.
Iraq’s Christian community has an ancient history in the country, but became a popular target following the 2003 US invasion. Large numbers of Christians have fled since then, and a number of high profile attacks in the past few weeks have sparked a fresh exodus from the community, with Syria reporting a larger than usual number of Christians at the border.
Maliki’s anger thus seems somewhat misdirected, particularly as it was his government’s failed rescue attempt, and the subsequent killing of the large portion of a Baghdad congregation, that sparked this latest series of refugees. Even if Western Europe is not available to them, the situation in Iraq is simply so dangerous that the Christians are going to leave, no matter where they end up.